Circulating microRNA-221 as a diagnostic biomarker for hepatitis C virus-related hepatocellular carcinoma

Document Type : Original Article


1 Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Egypt

2 Tropical Medicine Department, Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Egypt


Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer in the world and the third cause of cancer-related mortality as estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO). A major risk factor for HCC development; is Hepatitis C virus (HCV). According to WHO, approximately 55–85% of patients with HCV will develop chronic hepatitis, which lead to progressive fibrosis and cirrhosis. There are no biomarkers for early detection of HCC, and most patients are diagnosed at advanced stages, which is associated with poor prognosis. MicroRNAs have been reported as biomarkers for various pathologic conditions and recently HCC is one of them.
Aim: Explore the potential usefulness of serum miR-221 as a diagnostic biomarker of HCV-related HCC.
Methods: This study was conducted on 40 chronic HCV patients and 10 healthy control subjects. Patients were divided into two groups: HCC and cirrhosis. All patients and controls were subjected to clinical assessment and laboratory investigations in addition to the evaluation of the level of serum miRNA-221 expression by RT-PCR.
Results: MiRNA- 221 showed significant fold increase in both HCC and cirrhosis (P = 0.005) when compared to normal controls. ROC curve analysis for miR-221 yielded 85% sensitivity and 40% specificity for differentiation of HCC patients from non-HCC.
Conclusion: Serum miR-221 has a strong potential to serve as one of the biomarkers of early HCC development. This can modify liver carcinogenesis, and can be used to improve preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic strategies in HCC.

Key words: MiRNA; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Hepatitis C Virus


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