mRNA and Cancer Diagnostics

By Priyanka Varma


Mar. 29th, 2022

“mRNA” (messenger RNA) is a single stranded ribonucleic acid molecule which is transcribed from a single DNA strand. It carries genetic information and is responsible for protein synthesis [1]. It  falls under the category of “transcriptomic” biomarker, wherein with the help of RNA sequencing technologies, mRNA expression is analyzed for prognostic and diagnostic applications in several cancers. Some examples include, BIRC5 (Baculoviral IAP Repeat containing 5) mRNA has been used in the diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer with a superior efficacy as compared to CarcinoEmbryonic Antigen (CEA) [1]. Tumor-educated Leukocytes mRNA have been touted to be potential genes (GPX1 and others) to diagnose Non Small Cell Lung Cancers (NSCLC) [2].

Current methods that are utilized for mRNA detection are Northern blot and quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). There are other high throughput amplification platforms, microarray technologies, sequencing and annotation of multiple genomes,  as well which help detect mRNA and require expensive protein enzymes and precise experimental conditions [3, 4]. Total RNA isolated from whole blood is primarily from erythroid cells, while mRNA from whole blood shares 80% of the transcriptome with major tissues, making it an excellent candidate for the diagnostics of several diseases [3].  While paper-based platforms have the advantages of being inexpensive and providing a direct result, addition of other nanoparticles like colloidal gold, magnetic beads have been shown to improve the precision in detection of mRNA [4].

Low expression of mRNA and similarities in sequence of mRNA are potential concerns in utilizing mRNA as a biomarker with high sensitivity. Current methods to detect mRNA have the drawbacks of being very expensive, long drawn, as well as, requiring strict preservation environment conditions [4].


  1. Frontiers | Biomarkers (mRNAs and Non-Coding RNAs) for the Diagnosis and Prognosis of Colorectal Cancer – From the Body Fluid to Tissue Level | Oncology (
  2. Tumor‐educated leukocytes mRNA as a diagnostic biomarker for non‐small cell lung cancer - Niu - 2021 - Thoracic Cancer - Wiley Online Library
  3. Sunde RA. mRNA transcripts as molecular biomarkers in medicine and nutrition. J Nutr Biochem. 2010 Aug;21(8):665-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.11.012. Epub 2010 Mar 20. PMID: 20303730; PMCID: PMC3095209.
  4. Li H, Warden AR, Su W, He J, Zhi X, Wang K, Zhu L, Shen G, Ding X. Highly sensitive and portable mRNA detection platform for early cancer detection. J Nanobiotechnology. 2021 Sep 26;19(1):287. doi: 10.1186/s12951-021-01039-4. PMID: 34565398; PMCID: PMC8474757.
We use cookies to provide you with a greater online experience. By using our sites, you agree to our use of cookies. See our cookie policy.