MicroRNA a Novel Biomarker for Gastric Cancer

Serum microRNA-206 (miRNA) may serve as not only a novel diagnostic biomarker for gastric cancer but also as an indicator of prognosis and cancer recurrence, according to a study published in Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry

Previous studies have suggested that miRNA-206 may have a tumor-suppressive function, with low levels of serum miRNA-206 often indicating poorer prognosis for patients with melanoma and osteosarcoma. However, its role in gastric cancer has not been clearly defined. Therefore, researchers led by Cheng-Gong Hou, Zhumadian Central Hospital, China, investigated serum miRNA-206 levels in patients with gastric cancer and its association with clinicopathological features and survival time. 
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A total of 150 patients who received curative resection of gastric cancer were included in the study. None had pre-resection metastasis or had previously undergone chemotherapy, radiation therapy or immunotherapy. After RNA samples were extracted, follow-up occurred every 3 months for one year; then ever 6 months for 3 years; then once annually in all subsequent years. 

Results showed that miRNA-206 levels were significantly down-regulated in patients with gastric cancer compared to healthy controls. Half of the patients included in the study were classified as having high levels of miRNA expression, while the other half were considered to have low-levels of expression. Patients with decreased miRNA-206 expression were more likely to have deep local invasion, positive lymphatic metastasis, and advanced TNM (Tumor-Node-Metastasis) stage. It was not associated with any other clinical features, such as patient gender, age, tumor size, tumor site, and cancer differentiation. 

Additionally, researchers found that serum miRNA-206 levels were significantly higher among patients who relapsed during follow-up. Statistical analyses confirmed serum miRNA-206 as a useful marker for gastric cancer diagnosis and could be used to help distinguish which patients are more likely to recur. Serum miRNA-206 levels were also associated with overall and disease-free survival, with low expression levels indicating unfavorable outcomes.

“In summary, the current study showed that level of serum miRNA-206 was down-regulated in [gastric cancer] patients, and associated with aggressive clinicopathological characteristics,” authors of the study concluded. “More importantly, serum miRNA-206 might serve as a minimally invasive biomarker for [gastric cancer] diagnosis, and decreased serum miRNA-206 could predict [gastric cancer] recurrence and poor patient’s survival. Future studies with larger sample size and longer follow-up time should be carried out to confirm the present conclusion.”—Sean McGuire

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Hou CG, Lou XY, Li G. Diagnostic and prognostic value of serum microRNA-206 in patients with gastric cancer. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2016;29:1512-1520. doi: 10.1159/000447854.