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A collaborative study involving four Indian institutes (National Institute Of Immunology, AIIMS, Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Faridabad, St John’s Research Hospital, Bengaluru) and one French Institute, University of Strasbourg have figured out a way to detect colon cancer as early as stage 1, to ensure an effective recovery.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), it is the third most common form of cancer in men (663,000 cases in 2014, amounting to 10 percent of all cancer cases) and second most common in women (571,000 cases in 2014 amounting to 9.4 percent of all cancer cases).
Colon cancer is also notorious to be one of the forms of cancer that’s detected at really late stages and there are two techniques that result in effective detection — CT colonography, colonoscopy and immunohistochemistry. CT colonography involves low-dose radiation, colonoscopy is invasive and really uncomfortable and immunohistochemistry is subjective and can at times be non-reproducible.
The new study, led by Dr Sagar Sengupta from the National Institute of Immunology has however found a novel way to identify the disease as early as stage 1 through his lab’s work on microRNAs.
These microRNAs are minute single-stranded non-coding RNA molecules that silence the expression of proteins. The microRNAs are known to fuse to the messenger RNA molecules that code for the proteins and thus either inactivate or destroy them.
The study has found that six microRNAs get upregulated in colon cancer cells — the levels of these are controlled by master regulator protein CDX2. The upregulated microRNAs which were named ‘DNA damage sensitive microRNAs’ (DDSM for short) was found to target a group of cellular proteins which are needed to maintain the original nature of genetic material in each cell of the human body.
Lab mice experiments revealed that the cells have a greater tendency to form cancers if there is an overexpression of these microRNAs and loss of the aforementioned genome stabilisers.
The findings have been tested on datasets in the Cancer Genome Atlas as well as in a group of colon cancer patients who had come to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.
Researchers discovered that DDSMs were upregulated even in the case of stage 1 colon cancer tissues. This was seen even till stage 4 cancers. Moreover, increased DDSM levels reduced the probability of the patient’s survival.
Dr Sengupta said in a statement to India Science Wire, “We believe that the identified DDSMs can serve as an invaluable biomarker for colon cancer early detection process. We now have to determine whether the DDSMs can also be detected in patient blood samples. If that is possible, it would make colon cancer detection as simple as the detection of blood sugar in diabetic patients”.
This is a great piece of technological breakthrough, which will no doubt help save lives lost to cancer. Keep visiting Indiatimes.com for more coverage on breakthrough research in the field of cancer cure and medicine, and healthcare technology.