To evaluate the ability of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition–related microRNAs (miRNAs) as serum biomarkers for prognosis and prediction of metastasis in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC).
Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition–related miRNAs drive CRC progression and metastasis. However, their potential as serum biomarkers in CRC has not been studied.
This was a 3-phase study using 446 colorectal specimens. In the first phase, we selected candidate miRNAs associated with metastasis by analyzing the expression of 4 miR-200 family members (miR-200b, -200c, -141, and -429) in serum samples from 12 patients with stage I and IV CRC. The second phase involved independent validation of candidate miRNAs in serum from 182 patients with CRC and 24 controls. Finally, we analyzed expression in matched 156 tumor tissues from 182 patients with CRC and an independent set of 20 matched primary CRC and corresponding liver metastases to identify the source of circulating miRNAs.
After initial screening, miR-200c was selected as the candidate serum miRNA best associated with metastasis. Validation analysis revealed that serum miR-200c levels were significantly higher in stage IV than in stage I–III CRCs. High serum miR-200c demonstrated a significant positive correlation with lymph node metastasis, distant metastasis, and prognosis (P = 0.0026, P = 0.0023, and P = 0.0064, respectively). More importantly, serum miR-200c was an independent predictor for lymph node metastasis (odds ratio: 4.81, 95% confidence interval: 1.98–11.7, P = 0.0005) and tumor recurrence (hazard ratio: 4.51, 95% confidence interval: 1.56–13.01, P = 0.005) and emerged as an independent prognostic marker for CRC (hazard ratio: 2.67, 95% confidence interval: 1.28–5.67, P = 0.01).
Serum miR-200c has strong potential to serve as a noninvasive biomarker for CRC prognosis and predicting metastasis.