Faecal microRNAs as a non-invasive tool in the diagnosis of colonic adenomas and colorectal cancer: A meta-analysis

Tung On Yau, Ceen-Ming Tang, Elinor K Harriss, Benjamin Dickins, Christos Polytarchou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are proposed as potential biomarkers for the diagnosis of numerous diseases. Here, we performed a meta-analysis to evaluate the utility of faecal miRNAs as a non-invasive tool in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. A systematic literature search, according to predetermined criteria, in five databases identified 17 research articles including 6475, 783 and 5569 faecal-based miRNA tests in CRC, adenoma patients and healthy individuals, respectively. Sensitivity, specificity, positive/negative likelihood and diagnostic odds ratios, area under curve (AUC), summary receiver operator characteristic (sROC) curves, association of individual or combinations of miRNAs to cancer stage and location, subgroup, meta-regression and Deeks' funnel plot asymmetry analyses were employed. Pooled miRNAs for CRC had an AUC of 0.811, with a sensitivity of 58.8% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 51.7-65.5%) and specificity of 84.8% (95% CI: 81.1-87.8%), whilst for colonic adenoma, it was 0.747, 57.3% (95% CI: 40.8-72.3%) and 76.1% (95% CI: 66.1-89.4%), respectively. The most reliable individual miRNA was miR-21, with an AUC of 0.843, sensitivity of 59.3% (95% CI: 26.3-85.6%) and specificity of 85.6% (95% CI: 72.2-93.2%). Paired stage analysis showed a better diagnostic accuracy in late stage CRC and sensitivity higher in distal than proximal CRC. In conclusion, faecal miR-21, miR-92a and their combination are promising non-invasive biomarkers for faecal-based CRC screening.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9491
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenoma/diagnosis
  • Colonic Neoplasms/diagnosis
  • Feces
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs/metabolism
  • RNA, Neoplasm/metabolism


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