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With 3,500 new cases in Norway each year, colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. Colorectal tumors are characterized by genomic instability, causing multiple and genome-wide genetic changes that are associated with certain risk factors and clinical features. On the RNA level, one way of causing variation is by producing structurally different transcripts via alternative splicing of pre-mRNA.
In the recent paper, Sveen et al. have used exon microarray analyses to describe great genome-wide heterogeneity in exon usage among colorectal cancers. They show that this amount of exon usage variation is associated with the expression levels of splicing factors, suggesting a potential biological rationale for such transcriptome instability. They also show that patients with a high degree of transcriptome instability have poorer survival than patients whose tumors exhibit average exon usage patterns, indicating that structural transcriptome variation may also be an important biological and clinical characteristic of colorectal cancer, analogous to genomic variation.
"Transcriptome instability in colorectal cancer identified by exon microarray analyses: Associations with splicing factor expression levels and patient survival"
Sveen A*, Ă…gesen TH*, Nesbakken A, Rognum TO, Lothe RA, Skotheim RI.
Genome Medicine 2011, 3:32
*These authors contributed equally to this study