Rationale: Long extracellular RNAs (exRNAs) in plasma can be profiled by new sequencing technologies, even with low abundance. However, cancer-related exRNAs and their variations remain understudied. Methods: We investigated different variations (i.e. differential expression, alternative splicing, alternative polyadenylation, and differential editing) in diverse long exRNA species (e.g. long noncoding RNAs and circular RNAs) using 79 plasma exosomal RNA-seq (exoRNA-seq) datasets of multiple cancer types. We then integrated 53 exoRNA-seq datasets and 65 self-profiled cell-free RNA-seq (cfRNA-seq) datasets to identify recurrent variations in liver cancer patients. We further combined TCGA tissue RNA-seq datasets and validated biomarker candidates by RT-qPCR in an individual cohort of more than 100 plasma samples. Finally, we used machine learning models to identify a signature of 3 noncoding RNAs for the detection of liver cancer. Results: We found that different types of RNA variations identified from exoRNA-seq data were enriched in pathways related to tumorigenesis and metastasis, immune, and metabolism, suggesting that cancer signals can be detected from long exRNAs. Subsequently, we identified more than 100 recurrent variations in plasma from liver cancer patients by integrating exoRNA-seq and cfRNA-seq datasets. From these datasets, 5 significantly up-regulated long exRNAs were confirmed by TCGA data and validated by RT-qPCR in an independent cohort. When using machine learning models to combine two of these validated circular and structured RNAs (SNORD3B-1, circ-0080695) with a miRNA (miR-122) as a panel to classify liver cancer patients from healthy donors, the average AUROC of the cross-validation was 89.4%. The selected 3-RNA panel successfully detected 79.2% AFP-negative samples and 77.1% early-stage liver cancer samples in the testing and validation sets. Conclusions: Our study revealed that different types of RNA variations related to cancer can be detected in plasma and identified a 3-RNA detection panel for liver cancer, especially for AFP-negative and early-stage patients.
Zhu Yumin, Wang Siqi, Xi Xiaochen, Zhang Minfeng, Liu Xiaofan, Tang Weina, Cai Peng, Xing Shaozhen, Bao Pengfei, Jin Yunfan, Zhao Weihao, Chen Yinghui, Zhao Huanan, Jia Xiaodong, Lu Shanshan, Lu Yinying, Chen Lei, Yin Jianhua, Lu Zhi John
RNA biomarker, cancer, circular RNA, extracellular RNA, liquid biopsy, noncoding RNA