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MicroRNA Biomarker Linked to Survival in Liver Cancer

Levels differ by gender and are associated with response to interferon treatment

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 7 (HealthDay News) -- A microRNA biomarker has been identified in liver tumors, with differing levels by gender, and associated with survival and response to interferon treatment, according to a study in the Oct. 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Junfang Ji, Ph.D., from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues profiled microRNAs, small non-coding RNAs that regulate the translation of many genes, in 241 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma.

The researchers found that miR-26a and miR-26b were expressed at higher levels in women than in men with hepatocellular carcinoma, noting that this cancer is known to be less common in women. Compared with normal tissues, miR-26 was expressed at lower levels in tumors. Reduced expression of miR-26 was associated with a distinct pattern of overall gene expression and alteration of proinflammatory cellular signaling pathways. In an independent group of 214 patients taking part in randomized clinical trials of interferon treatment, the authors note that low miR-26 expression was associated with reduced overall survival during a six-year period, but with a better response to interferon treatment.

"The expression patterns of microRNAs in liver tissue differ between men and women with hepatocellular carcinoma," Ji and colleagues conclude. "The miR-26 expression status of such patients is associated with survival and response to adjuvant therapy with interferon alfa."

One author reported receiving lecture fees from Bayer.

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