Int J Mol Sci 22 (3) 1354 [2021-01-29; online 2021-01-29]
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third leading cause of cancer deaths. Advances within bioinformatics, such as machine learning, can improve biomarker discovery and ultimately improve CRC survival rates. There are clear sex differences in CRC characteristics, but the impact of sex has not been considered with regards to CRC biomarkers. Our aim here was to investigate sex differences in the transcriptome of a normal colon and CRC, and between paired normal and tumor tissue. Next, we attempted to identify CRC diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers and investigate if they are sex-specific. We collected paired normal and tumor tissue, performed RNA-seq, and applied feature selection in combination with machine learning to identify the top CRC diagnostic biomarkers. We used The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) data to identify sex-specific CRC diagnostic biomarkers and performed an overall survival analysis to identify sex-specific prognostic biomarkers. We found transcriptomic sex differences in both the normal colon tissue and in CRC. Forty-four of the top-ranked biomarkers were sex-specific and 20 biomarkers showed a sex-specific prognostic value. Our data show the importance of sex in the discovery of CRC biomarkers. We propose 20 sex-specific CRC prognostic biomarkers, including ESM1, GUCA2A, and VWA2 for males and CLDN1 and FUT1 for females.