Accuracy of blood-based biomarkers for screening precancerous colorectal lesions: a protocol for systematic review and meta-analysis

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Introduction Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most diagnosed cancer and the second most common cause of cancer mortality worldwide. Most CRCs develop through either the adenoma-to-carcinoma or the serrated pathways, and, therefore, detection and removal of these precursor lesions can prevent the development of cancer. Current screening programmes can aid in the detection of CRC and adenomas; however, participation rates are suboptimal. Blood-based biomarkers may help to address these low participation rates in screening programmes. Although blood-based biomarker tests show promise for cancer detection, limited attention has been placed on the sensitivity and specificity for detection of the precursor lesions. The aim of this research is to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the accuracy of blood-based biomarker tests in detecting advanced precancerous lesions. Methods and analysis This protocol was informed by the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses-Protocols (PRISMA-P) and results will be reported in line with the PRISMA guidelines. Literature searches will be conducted on PubMed, Embase and Web of Science. Two reviewers will conduct the searches, and independently screen them, according to title and abstract and then the full-text versions of those selected articles as well as the risk of bias via the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies version 2 (QUADAS-2) tool. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation guidelines will be used to validate the certainty of evidence for recommendations based on the risk of bias findings. Meta-analysis will be conducted where appropriate on groups of studies with low heterogeneity. Ethics and dissemination No patient data will be included in our review and, therefore, ethics approval is not required. It is anticipated that the review will identify the most promising candidate biomarkers for clinical translation in the screening of advanced precancerous lesions. The results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal. PROSPERO registration number CRD42021285173.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere060712
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • colorectal surgery
  • gastroenterology
  • Gastrointestinal tumours
  • blood-based biomarkers
  • meta-analysis
  • Colorectal surgery


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