Circulating nucleic acids in plasma and serum (CNAPS): applications in oncology
José A González-Masiá,1 Damián García-Olmo,2 Dolores C García-Olmo3
1General Surgery Service, General University Hospital of Albacete, Albacete, 2Department of Surgery, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and La Paz University Hospital, IdiPaz, Madrid, 3Experimental Research Unit, General University Hospital of Albacete, Albacete, Spain
Abstract: The presence of small amounts of circulating nucleic acids in plasma and serum (CNAPS) is not a new finding. The verification that such amounts are significantly increased in cancer patients, and that CNAPS might carry a variety of genetic and epigenetic alterations related to cancer development and progression, has aroused great interest in the scientific community in the last decades. Such alterations potentially reflect changes that occur during carcinogenesis, and include DNA mutations, loss of heterozygosity, viral genomic integration, disruption of microRNA, hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes, and changes in the mitochondrial DNA. These findings have led to many efforts toward the implementation of new clinical biomarkers based on CNAPS analysis. In the present article, we review the main findings related to the utility of CNAPS analysis for early diagnosis, prognosis, and monitoring of cancer, most of which appear promising. However, due to the lack of harmonization of laboratory techniques, the heterogeneity of disease progression, and the small number of recruited patients in most of those studies, there has been a poor translation of basic research into clinical practice. In addition, many aspects remain unknown, such as the release mechanisms of cell-free nucleic acids, their biological function, and the way by which they circulate in the bloodstream. It is therefore expected that in the coming years, an improved understanding of the relationship between CNAPS and the molecular biology of cancer will lead to better diagnosis, management, and treatment.
Keywords: plasma, cancer, clinical tool, microRNA, heterozygosity, tumor suppressor genes, viral genomic integration, biomarkers
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