Research Papers: Pathology:

Analysis of small nucleolar RNAs in sputum for lung cancer diagnosis

Jian Su, Jeipi Liao, Lu Gao, Jun Shen, Maria A. Guarnera, Min Zhan, HongBin Fang, Sanford A. Stass and Feng Jiang _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:5131-5142. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.4219

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Jian Su1,*, Jeipi Liao1,*, Lu Gao1,*, Jun Shen1,*, Maria A. Guarnera1, Min Zhan2, HongBin Fang2, Sanford A. Stass1, and Feng Jiang1

1 Department of Pathology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

2 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

* These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Feng Jiang, email:

Keywords: lung cancer, sputum, biomarkers, snoRNAs, diagnosis

Received: April 15, 2014 Accepted: May 09, 2015 Published: May 20, 2015


Molecular analysis of sputum presents a noninvasive approach for diagnosis of lung cancer. We have shown that dysregulation of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) plays a vital role in lung tumorigenesis. We have also identified six snoRNAs whose changes are associated with lung cancer. Here we investigated if analysis of the snoRNAs in sputum could provide a potential tool for diagnosis of lung cancer. Using qRT-PCR, we determined expressions of the six snoRNAs in sputum of a training set of 59 lung cancer patients and 61 cancer-free smokers to develop a biomarker panel, which was validated in a testing set of 67 lung cancer patients and 69 cancer-free smokers for the diagnostic performance. The snoRNAs were robustly measurable in sputum. In the training set, a panel of two snoRNA biomarkers (snoRD66 and snoRD78) was developed, producing 74.58% sensitivity and 83.61% specificity for identifying lung cancer. The snoRNA biomarkers had a significantly higher sensitivity (74.58%) compared with sputum cytology (45.76%) (P < 0.05). The changes of the snoRNAs were not associated with stage and histology of lung cancer (All P >0.05). The performance of the biomarker panel was confirmed in the testing cohort. We report for the first time that sputum snoRNA biomarkers might be useful to improve diagnosis of lung cancer.

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