Baylor researcher develops biomarker for high-risk colon cancer metastases

Feb. 3, 2015

A new study developed at the Center for Gastrointestinal Cancer Research and the Center for Epigenetics, Cancer Prevention and Cancer Genomics at Baylor Research Institute has discovered unique metastasis-specific microRNA signatures in primary colorectal cancers that could predict prognosis and distant metastasis in colorectal cancer.

The study, recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, originally identified the need for specific biomarkers that could predict outcomes of colorectal cancer distant metastasis in order for physicians to suggest more effective therapies. It is the second stage in a long-term colorectal cancer study, which first developed a blood test for finding cancer-related microRNA before a tumor develops in the colon.

Results from the study would help determine which colorectal cancer patients have a high risk of developing distant metastases, of which liver metastasis is the most common manifestation. With these findings, oncologists can better predict which patients need more extensive treatment to avoid overtreating—or undertreating—colorectal cancer in patients.

A third phase of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Lab’s study is currently underway, and the team hopes to report new findings within the next couple of years. Researchers will take the results from the blood test and metastasis-specific microRNA study to develop markers for identifying different stages of colorectal cancer, as well as which drugs best treat those stages. If the team is successful in finding these markers, the results could help establish individualized treatment—and, ultimately, start treating the right type of cancer with the right type of drug.

Read the full press release on the Baylor website