RNA could predict cancer recurrence risk

Around a quarter of people with rectal cancer will experience a recurrence of their disease, and knowing the risk could help their monitoring and treatment. The microRNA (miRNA) diagnostic company Rosetta Genomics ($ROSG) and researchers from Israel have suggested a role for miRNA in predicting the chance of recurrence in these patients.

The team looked at the RNA in tumor samples from people with Stage I and Stage II colorectal cancer (cancer that has not spread, or has only spread to nearby organs) who had been treated through surgery. There were no links between the RNA profiles and good or poor outcomes in Stage I disease, but in the more severe Stage II disease, higher levels of miR-29a suggested longer survival without recurrence.

Study collaborator Baruch Brenner, M.D., of Rabin Medical Center, Beilinson Hospital and Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, noted: "The current study suggests a potential prognostic role of miR-29a in patients with resected Stage II colon cancer. Patients who did not experience a recurrence within three years from the resection of their primary tumor had significantly higher expression levels of this miRNA compared with patients who did have a recurrence within the same time. To further support the prognostic role of miR-29a, high expression levels of this miRNA correlated not only with the risk of recurrence, but also with the duration of disease-free survival."

This is just an early trial, and more studies are planned, but if it proves successful, such a diagnostic could pick out those patients whose cancer is not likely to recur and therefore would not need additional chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which has unpleasant side effects. Conversely, it could ensure that those patients who are at risk of their cancer coming back could get the extra treatment and monitoring that they need.

- read the abstract
- see the press release