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Unique database of biomarkers can provide new knowledge on colorectal cancer


A database with almost 1,000 biomarkers for the diagnosis of colorectal cancer, drug treatment and disease prognosis. These are the results presented in a new doctoral thesis in biomedicine by Xueli Zhang at Örebro University.

The database is the first of its kind, containing collected information of biomarkers linked to colorectal cancer, including colon cancer and rectal cancer. Using biomarkers, it is possible to determine early on who is at risk of developing colorectal cancer, and how those afflicted will respond to drug treatment – which can lead to better prognosis.

“My hope is that the database will be of great benefit for research on colorectal cancer,” says doctoral student Xueli Zhang.

At the present time, there are a total of 870 biomarkers collected in the database, subdivided into three categories: diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Xueli Zhang has included biomarkers linked to colorectal cancer from more than 1,000 research articles.

“Our goal is to continue updating the database with new biomarkers. It is essential that we also expand and develop the database’s features,” he explains.

Predict new biomarkers

Xueli Zhang

Xueli Zhang.

In a substudy, Xueli Zhang has also used the database’s biomarkers combined with applied machine learning – artificial intelligence (AI) that enables computers to learn to perform tasks based on data – to predict new diagnostic biomarkers for colon cancer and rectal cancer. This resulted in twelve new biomarkers which can potentially aid in diagnosing the disease.

“We have further tested on tissue biopsies one of these biomarkers which was significant,” explains Xueli Zhang.

The levels of the biomarker, Chromogranin-A (CHGA), were normal in healthy tissue, but almost non-existent in tissue from patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

“My goal is to continue predicting new biomarkers using machine learning, which in the long run can be used for more reliable diagnosis of colorectal cancer at an early stage,” summarizes Xueli Zhang.

Text: Jasenka Dobric
Translation: Jerry Gray
Photo: Private

In Sweden, colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in men and women. Every year some 6,000 persons are diagnosed. Survival is strongly linked to tumour stage.