Background: Several recent studies have demonstrated that microRNAs (miRNAs) are stably detectable in the plasma/serum. We hypothesised that miR-18a in the plasma is a potential biomarker in patients with pancreatic cancer.
Methods: miR-18a is located in the miR-17-92 cluster and reported to be highly expressed in pancreatic cancer tissues. This study was divided into three parts: (1) Confirmation of higher miR-18a levels in primary pancreatic cancer tissues and cell lines than in normal pancreatic tissues and a human fibroblast cell line. (2) Evaluation of the plasma miR-18a assay using quantitative RT-PCR by comparing plasma results obtained from 36 patients with pancreatic cancer and from 30 healthy volunteers. (3) Evaluation of the assay for monitoring tumour dynamics in patients with pancreatic cancer.
Results: (1) The expression of miR-18a was significantly higher in pancreatic cancer tissues (P=0.012) and pancreatic cancer cell lines (P=0.015) than in normal tissues and fibroblasts. (2) Plasma concentrations of miR-18a were significantly higher in pancreatic cancer patients than in controls (P<0.0001). The value of the area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve (AUC) was 0.9369. (3) Plasma levels of miR-18a were significantly lower in postoperative samples than in preoperative samples (P=0.0077).
Conclusion: Circulating miR-18a might provide new complementary tumour markers for pancreatic cancer.