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New Study Validates Blood-Based miRNA Biomarkers for Early Detection of Lung Cancer

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Researchers at Saarland University and the Comprehensive Biomarker Center in Germany announced today that they have successfully used blood-based biomarkers to differentiate between non-small cell lung cancer patients, COPD patients, and healthy controls.

Their study, published in Oncotarget, showed that blood-based microRNA signatures have significant potential to be used in diagnosing lung cancer early enough to treat the disease more effectively, the researchers said in a statement. It also has the potential to make it easier for clinicians to differentiate between lung cancer and COPD.

"Validation of biomarkers is essential to advance the translational process to clinical application," the researchers wrote in their paper, adding that only 15.4 percent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed while the disease is localized, lowering the five-year overall survival rate to 16.8 percent.

"There is an urgent need for reliable biomarkers to improve accuracy and time of diagnosis of lung cancer," they wrote. And although there are a large number of studies on miRNA biomarkers in blood, serum, or plasma, very few are verified and validated for clinical use, they added.

Using data they had previously collected from microarray studies, the researchers chose 235 miRNAs related to lung cancer and COPD, and performed qRT-PCR on each one. They found a significant concordance between AUC values from the microarray screening and the qRT-PCR, validating 90.3 percent of the markers in the panel, including hsa-miR-20b-5p, hsa-miR-20a-5p, hsa-miR-17-5p, and hsa-miR-106a-5p.

They further found that it's possible to differentiate between lung cancer and healthy controls using a subset of five markers with 94.5 percent accuracy, and between lung cancer and COPD, though more markers were required for the latter comparison. In differentiating between lung cancer and COPD, five markers yielded 78.8 percent accuracy, 10 markers yielded 83.9 percent accuracy, and 50 markers yielded 87.6 percent accuracy.

"The identified miRNA panel contributes towards a refined NSCLC miRNA biomarker signature alleviating the need for costly, complex invasive procedures," the team wrote.

"While this study is small, our methods were able to differentiate a patient with cancer from a disease-free individual with 95 percent accuracy with a simple blood test," said Comprehensive Biomarker Center CEO Jochen Kohlhaas in a statement. "We'll certainly continue the development of lung-related biomarkers and work on extending our approach to other diseases."