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Keywords:

  • colorectal cancer;
  • non-coding RNA;
  • biomarkers;
  • minimal residual disease

Abstract

Early detection of colorectal cancer (CRC) is currently based on fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) and colonoscopy, both which can significantly reduce CRC-related mortality. However, FOBT has low-sensitivity and specificity, whereas colonoscopy is labor- and cost-intensive. Therefore, the discovery of novel biomarkers that can be used for improved CRC screening, diagnosis, staging and as targets for novel therapies is of utmost importance. To identify novel CRC biomarkers we utilized representational difference analysis (RDA) and characterized a colon cancer associated transcript (CCAT1), demonstrating consistently strong expression in adenocarcinoma of the colon, while being largely undetectable in normal human tissues (p < 000.1). CCAT1 levels in CRC are on average 235-fold higher than those found in normal mucosa. Importantly, CCAT1 is strongly expressed in tissues representing the early phase of tumorigenesis: in adenomatous polyps and in tumor-proximal colonic epithelium, as well as in later stages of the disease (liver metastasis, for example). In CRC-associated lymph nodes, CCAT1 overexpression is detectable in all H&E positive, and 40.0% of H&E and immunohistochemistry negative lymph nodes, suggesting very high sensitivity. CCAT1 is also overexpressed in 40.0% of peripheral blood samples of patients with CRC but not in healthy controls. CCAT1 is therefore a highly specific and readily detectable marker for CRC and tumor-associated tissues.