BACKGROUND: Colorectal cancer (CRC) metastasis occurs in various organs, most frequently in liver. Serological examination including tumor and biochemical markers for liver function evaluation is routinely performed, though its accuracy is not high. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been implicated in a variety of human diseases including cancer, and have many characteristics of an ideal biomarker most notably their inherent stability and resilience. Recently, several studies have indicated that circulating miRNAs hold much potential as novel noninvasive biomarkers for cancer and other disease processes. The objective of this study was to investigate the potential of serum miRNAs as novel biomarkers for CRC with liver metastasis. METHODS: This study was divided into three phases: (I) 3 candidate serum miRNAs were detected by using real-time RT-PCR, corresponding 38 CRC patients with liver metastasis and 36 CRC patients without metastasis. (II) Marker validation by real-time RT-PCR on a similar cohort of age- and sex-matched CRC patients without (n=20) and with liver metastasis (n=20). (III) We examined the correlation between the expressions of candidate serum miRNAs with clinical parameters of CRC patients. RESULTS: Serum miR-29a was significantly higher in colorectal liver metastasis (CRLM) patients than in CRC patients. This marker yielded a receiver operating characteristic curve area of 80.3%. At a cutoff value of 0.155, the sensitivity was 75% and the specificity was 75% in discriminating metastatic from non-metastatic patients. In addition, increased levels of miR-29a expression were also observed in colorectal tumors from CRLM patients compared with CRC patients. No significant difference was observed in the levels of serum miR-92a between metastatic and non-metastatic patients. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that serum miR-29a has strong potential as a novel noninvasive biomarker for early detection of CRC with liver metastasis.
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