Predictive biomarkers for the recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) have great benefit in the selection of treatment options, including liver transplantation (LT), for HCC. The purpose of this study was to identify specific microRNAs (miRs) in exosomes from the serum of patients with recurrent HCC and to validate these molecules as novel biomarkers for HCC recurrence.
Researchers at Kyushu University Beppu Hospital employed microarray-based expression profiling of miRs derived from exosomes in the serum of HCC patients to identify a biomarker that distinguishes between patients with and without HCC recurrence after LT. This was followed by the validation in a separate cohort of 59 HCC patients who underwent living related LT. The functions and potential gene targets of the recurrence-specific miRs were analysed using a database, clinical samples and HCC cell lines. The researchers found that miR-718 showed significantly different expression in the serum exosomes of HCC cases with recurrence after LT compared with those without recurrence. Decreased expression of miR-718 was associated with HCC tumour aggressiveness in the validated cohort series. They identified HOXB8 as a potential target gene of miR-718, and its upregulation was associated with poor prognosis.