Background & aims: Adjuvant therapies for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) such as interferon-alpha are effective only in a subset of patients. Previously we found that HCC patients with low level of miR-26 have survival benefits from interferon-alpha. The purpose of this study is to develop a standardized miR-26 diagnostic test (referred as MIR26-DX) to assist identification of candidate HCC patients for adjuvant interferon-alpha therapy.
Methods: We developed a multiplex reverse-transcription quantitative polymerase-chain-reaction assay to determine the levels of two HCC-related miR-26 transcripts along with six small RNA reference transcripts. We evaluated archived paraffin-embedded tissues from three cohorts of HCC patients (n=248) who underwent radical resection at three different clinical centers. Fifty-two percent of them underwent adjuvant interferon-alpha therapy. We used Cox-Mantel log-rank test to evaluate patient survival.
Results: We found that the multiplexing assay was stable and reproducible regardless of differences in sample preparations and operators. We developed a matrix template and a scoring algorithm based on a training cohort (n=129) to assign HCC patients, and then applied the template in two test cohorts (n=119). The proportions of HCC patients assigned as low miR-26 by this algorithm were 68, 4, and 63 percent in the training cohort and two test cohorts, respectively. Consistently, HCC with low miR-26 had a favorable response to interferon-alpha with improved median overall survival (≥3 year).
Conclusions: MIR26-DX is a simple and reliable companion diagnostic test to select HCC patients for adjuvant interferon-alpha therapy.
Keywords: adjuvant therapy; companion diagnostics.; hepatocellular carcinoma; interferon-alpha; miR-26.