Colonoscopy remains the standard screening method for detecting colorectal cancer (CRC) at an early stage. However, many people avoid having a colonoscopy because of the fear for its potential complications. Our study aimed to identify plasma microRNAs for preliminarily screening CRC in general population, so that some unnecessary colonoscopies can be avoided. We investigated plasma microRNA expression in three independent cohorts including the discovery (n = 80), training (n = 112), and validation (n = 49) phases recruited at two medical centers. Microarrays were used for screening 723 microRNAs in 80 plasma samples to identify candidate microRNAs. Quantitative reverse-transcriptase PCR was performed on the 161 training and validation plasma samples to evaluate the candidate microRNAs discovered from microarrays. A logistic regression model was constructed based on the training cohort and then verified by using the validation dataset. Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) was used to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy. We identified a panel of miR-409-3p, miR-7, and miR-93 that yielded high diagnostic accuracy in discriminating CRC from healthy group (AUC: 0.866 and 0.897 for training and validation dataset, respectively). Moreover, the diagnostic performance of the microRNA panel persisted in nonmetastasis CRC stages (Dukes' A-B, AUC: 0.809 and 0.892 for training and validation dataset, respectively) and in metastasis CRC stages (Dukes' C-D, AUC: 0.917 and 0.865 for training and validation dataset, respectively). In conclusion, our study reveals a plasma microRNA panel that has potential clinical value in early CRC detection and would play a critical role on preliminarily screening CRC in general population.What's new?
Colonoscopy remains the gold standard for early detection of colorectal cancer (CRC). However, it's difficult to motivate asymptomatic patients to comply with the need for routine screening with such an invasive procedure. In this study, the authors developed a panel of specific plasma microRNAs that was able to distinguish patients with CRC from healthy subjects, with high diagnostic accuracy. This molecular panel could lead to a standard blood test for preliminary CRC screening in the general population, allowing healthy patients to avoid unnecessary colonoscopies.