Background: Despite several years of research and attempts to develop prognostic models a considerable fraction of stage II colon cancer patients will experience relapse within few years from their operation. The aim of the present study was to investigate the prognostic importance of miRNA-21 (miR-21), quantified by in situ hybridisation, in a unique, large population-based cohort.
Patients and methods: The study included 764 patients diagnosed with stage II colon cancer in Denmark in the year 2003. One section from a representative paraffin-embedded tumour tissue specimen from each patient was processed for analysis of miR-21 and quantitatively assessed by image analysis.
Results: The miR-21 signal was predominantly observed in fibroblast-like cells located in the stromal compartment of the tumours. We found that patients expressing high levels of miR-21 had significantly inferior recurrence-free cancer-specific survival (RF-CSS): HR=1.26; 95% CI: 1.15-1.60; P<0.001. In Cox regression analysis, a high level of miR-21 retained its prognostic importance and was found to be significantly related to poor RF-CSS: HR=1.41; 95% CI: 1.19-1.67; P<0.001.
Conclusion: The present study showed that increasing miR-21 expression levels were significantly correlated to decreasing RF-CSS. Further investigations of the clinical importance of miR-21 in the selection of high-risk stage II colon cancer patients are merited.