Small non-coding RNA as early detection cancer biomarkers

Small noncoding RNAs (sncRNA) are involved in numerous cellulary processes in cancer development. We are currently investigating sncRNA as early detection and potential screening biomarkers of cancer.

Last update: 08.05.2018

From left: Robert Lyle, Trine Rounge, Magnus Leithaug, Hilde Langseth, Sinan Ugur Umu, Marianne Lauritzen and Cecilie Bucher-Johannessen 


Project summary

Serum contain many types of RNA molecules such as protein-coding messenger RNAs (mRNAs), miRNAs, piRNAs, transfer RNAs (tRNAs) and other miscellaneous non-coding RNA molecules. Regulatory ncRNAs, and in particullar microRNAs (miRNA), have been implicated in cancer and many other diseases and are thus promising biomarkers.

We have initiated two large small non-coding RNA cancer biomarker projects. These projects are led by the Cancer Registry of Norway (CRN) , and in close collaboration with the Norwegian Sequencing Center (NSC) at Oslo University Hospital (OUS), Saarland University, and bioinformatics core facilities at the University of Oslo.

Pre-diagnostic samples from the Janus Serum Bank (JSB), cancer data from the registry and health survey data provides a unique oppertunity to discover early detection cancer biomarkers.

The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway.


About 30.000 Norwegians are diagnosed with cancer annually and cancer is the second leading cause of death overall in Norway.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers and has increased rapidly in Norway since the 1960s in both men and women. Symptoms from colon cancer often appear at a late stage, when prognosis is uncertain or poor.

Similarly, lung cancer is the predominant cause of cancer-related death in men and women, and the incidence rates among women are still increasing. Due to lack of efficient strategies for screening or early diagnosis, the prognosis is generally poor.

Our studies focuses on colorectal, lung, testis, gall bladder, prostate and breast cancer.


Aim of research

The overall research aim is to investigate sncRNAs as early detection biomarkers. The long-term goal is to exploit such biomarkers in cancer screening.



We have produced sncRNA expression profiles from more than 2000 cancer cases and 600 healthy controls using pre-diagnostic serum samples from the Janus Serum Bank, on an Illumina HiSeq platform at NSC.

Our data set contain quality assured expression profiles that can be accessed by national and international research groups. We have reached an average sequence depth of 18 million sequences, and identified more than 600 unique miRNAs per sample in addition to other noncoding RNAs.




Overview of ongoing Projects


Genome-wide miRNA profiling in prediagnostic samples from Janus Serum Bank for early diagnosis, improved therapy & surveillance of cancer 

Biomarkers of Cancer: Biocomputional analysis of data from population-based biobanks and health registries

Genetic susceptibility to testicular cancer 

miRNA signatures in patients with colon cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer  

Identification of biomarkers for gallbladder cancer risk prediction- Towards personalized prevention of an orphan disease




Norwegian Sequencing Centre:

Core Facility Leader, Robert Lyle, PhD

Lab Technician, Magnus Leithaug, BSc



Saarland University:

Chair for Clinical Bioinformatics, Andreas Keller, PhD

Institute of Human Genetics, Eckart Meese, PhD



Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital:

Department of Tumor Biology and Bioinformatics Core Facility, Prof. Eivind Hovig, PhD

Department of Molecular Oncology, Prof. Ragnhild A. Lothe, PhD

Department of Oncology, Assoc. Prof Åslaug Helland, MD

Institute for Cancer Research, Bastian Fromm, PhD, Post Doc


Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences

Faculty of Health Sciences, Trine B. Haugen



University of Heidelberg 

Department of Biometry and Informatics, Prof. Justo Lorenzo Bermejo, PhD

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Karolinska Institutet

Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Prof. Fredrik Wiklund

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How to get access to data

The datasets can be accessed by national and international research groups after approval of a research plan by the data access committee at CRN and approval from REK (Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research). The data access committee includes senior researchers Hilde Langseth PhD and Trine B. Rounge PhD, Director Giske Ursin and senior lawyer Hilde Olav.

For data requests please email miRJanus[a]

Some administrative costs will follow with data access. The price will depend on overall complexity of the data request.  




Rounge TB, Umu SU, Lyle R, Langseth H, et al 2018. "Circulating small non-coding RNAs associated with age, sex, smoking, body mass and physical activity". Submitted publication. 

Umu SU, Langseth H, Bucher-Johannessen C, Lauritzen M, Leithaug M, Lyle R, Rounge TB, et al 2017.  "A comprehensive profile of circulating RNAs in human serum"

Fehlmann T, Langseth H, Rounge TB, Umu SU, et al 2017. "A high-resolution map of the human small non-coding transcriptome"

Keller A, Rounge TB, Langseth H, et al 2017. "Sources to variability in circulating human miRNA signatures". 

Rounge TB, Langseth H, Lauritzen M, et al. 2015. "microRNA Biomarker Discovery and High-Throughput DNA Sequencing Are Possible Using Long-term Archived Serum Samples".

Keller A, Langseth H, et al. 2011. "Stable serum miRNA profiles as potential tool for non-invasive lung cancer diagnosis".

Published: 24.08.2017