Background: Accurate detection of characteristic proteins secreted by colon cancer tumor cells in biological fluids could serve as a biomarker for the disease. The aim of the present study was to identify and validate new serum biomarkers and demonstrate their potential usefulness for early diagnosis of colon cancer.
Methods: The study was organized in three sequential phases: 1) biomarker discovery, 2) technical and biological validation, and 3) proof of concept to test the potential clinical use of selected biomarkers. A prioritized subset of the differentially-expressed genes between tissue types (50 colon mucosa from cancer-free individuals and 100 normal-tumor pairs from colon cancer patients) was validated and further tested in a series of serum samples from 80 colon cancer cases, 23 patients with adenoma and 77 cancer-free controls.
Results: In the discovery phase, 505 unique candidate biomarkers were identified, with highly significant results and high capacity to discriminate between the different tissue types. After a subsequent prioritization, all tested genes (N = 23) were successfully validated in tissue, and one of them, COL10A1, showed relevant differences in serum protein levels between controls, patients with adenoma (p = 0.0083) and colon cancer cases (p = 3.2e-6).
Conclusion: We present a sequential process for the identification and further validation of biomarkers for early detection of colon cancer that identifies COL10A1 protein levels in serum as a potential diagnostic candidate to detect both adenoma lesions and tumor.
Impact: The use of a cheap serum test for colon cancer screening should improve its participation rates and contribute to decrease the burden of this disease.