Salivary microRNAs as promising biomarkers for detection of esophageal cancer

PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e57502. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057502. Epub 2013 Apr 1.


Background and purpose: Tissue microRNAs (miRNAs) can detect cancers and predict prognosis. Several recent studies reported that tissue, plasma, and saliva miRNAs share similar expression profiles. In this study, we investigated the discriminatory power of salivary miRNAs (including whole saliva and saliva supernatant) for detection of esophageal cancer.

Materials and methods: By Agilent microarray, six deregulated miRNAs from whole saliva samples from seven patients with esophageal cancer and three healthy controls were selected. The six selected miRNAs were subjected to validation of their expression levels by RT-qPCR using both whole saliva and saliva supernatant samples from an independent set of 39 patients with esophageal cancer and 19 healthy controls.

Results: Six miRNAs (miR-10b*, miR-144, miR-21, miR-451, miR-486-5p, and miR-634) were identified as targets by Agilent microarray. After validation by RT-qPCR, miR-10b*, miR-144, and miR-451 in whole saliva and miR-10b*, miR-144, miR-21, and miR-451 in saliva supernatant were significantly upregulated in patients, with sensitivities of 89.7, 92.3, 84.6, 79.5, 43.6, 89.7, and 51.3% and specificities of 57.9, 47.4, 57.9%, 57.9, 89.5, 47.4, and 84.2%, respectively.

Conclusions: We found distinctive miRNAs for esophageal cancer in both whole saliva and saliva supernatant. These miRNAs possess discriminatory power for detection of esophageal cancer. Because saliva collection is noninvasive and convenient, salivary miRNAs show great promise as biomarkers for detection of esophageal cancer in areas at high risk.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis
  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / analysis
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Prognosis
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MicroRNAs

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.