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Understanding the normal temporal variation of serum molecules is a critical factor for identifying useful candidate biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of chronic disease. Using small RNA sequencing in a longitudinal study of 66 women with no history of cancer, we determined the distribution and dynamics (via intraclass correlation coefficients, ICCs) of the miRNA profile over 3 time points sampled across 2-5 years in the course of the screening trial, UKCTOCS. We were able to define a subset of longitudinally stable miRNAs (ICC >0.75) that were individually discriminating of women who had no cancer over the study period. These miRNAs were dominated by those originating from the C14MC cluster that is subject to maternal imprinting. This assessment was not significantly affected by common confounders such as age, BMI or time to centrifugation nor alternative methods to data normalisation. Our analysis provides important benchmark data supporting the development of miRNA biomarkers for the impact of life-course exposure as well as diagnosis and prognostication of chronic disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Scientific reports

Publication Date





Division of Cancer, Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, London, W12 0NN, United Kingdom.