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NCI to Fund Research on Non-coding RNAs as Cancer Detection Technologies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Cancer Institute will give awards of up to $250,000 per year to US researchers who will study non-coding RNA targets that could be used in early cancer detection.

NCI believes that ncRNAs may be of use in predicting which precancerous lesions could develop into metastatic tumors, which could improve patient outcomes and survival and lower the cost of cancer care. There is a need for novel biomarkers to differentiate between benign and precancerous lesions, NCI said in a funding statement for the grant, "Identifying Non-coding RNA Targets for Cancer Early Detection and Prevention."

NCI pointed out in the funding announcement that between 70 percent and 90 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if precancerous polyps could be detected with routine screening and then removed. And just as miRNAs have key features that make them useful as biomarkers, NCI sees some properties of ncRNAs that suggest they may be useful in early cancer detection and prognosis.

There are several specific topics of interest NCI would like to see pursued in this area — although proposals are not limited to these — including discovery and characterizations of ncRNAs in precancerous lesions and early stage cancers in the development of tumor initiating stem cells; determination of the utility of ncRNAs in tumors and body fluids to provide a basis for developing noninvasive assays for early diagnosis; combination of ncRNA and mRNA expression profiles to increase sensitivity and specificity; comparison of ncRNAs in precancerous lesions that progress to cancer with those in precancerous lesions that do not progress; and discovery and characterization of dysregulated ncRNA in cancer pathways that are modulated by bioactive food components in preclinical models.

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