Objectives: Molecular subclassification of non small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is essential to improve clinical outcome. This study assessed the prognostic and predictive value of circulating micro-RNA (miRNA) in patients with non-squamous NSCLC enrolled in the phase II SAKK (Swiss Group for Clinical Cancer Research) trial 19/05, receiving uniform treatment with first-line bevacizumab and erlotinib followed by platinum-based chemotherapy at progression.
Materials and methods: Fifty patients with baseline and 24 h blood samples were included from SAKK 19/05. The primary study endpoint was to identify prognostic (overall survival, OS) miRNA's. Patient samples were analyzed with Agilent human miRNA 8x60K microarrays, each glass slide formatted with eight high-definition 60K arrays. Each array contained 40 probes targeting each of the 1347 miRNA. Data preprocessing included quantile normalization using robust multi-array average (RMA) algorithm. Prognostic and predictive miRNA expression profiles were identified by Spearman's rank correlation test (percentage tumor shrinkage) or log-rank testing (for time-to-event endpoints).
Results: Data preprocessing kept 49 patients and 424 miRNA for further analysis. Ten miRNA's were significantly associated with OS, with hsa-miR-29a being the strongest prognostic marker (HR=6.44, 95%-CI 2.39-17.33). Patients with high has-miR-29a expression had a significantly lower survival at 10 months compared to patients with a low expression (54% versus 83%). Six out of the 10 miRNA's (hsa-miRN-29a, hsa-miR-542-5p, hsa-miR-502-3p, hsa-miR-376a, hsa-miR-500a, hsa-miR-424) were insensitive to perturbations according to jackknife cross-validation on their HR for OS. The respective principal component analysis (PCA) defined a meta-miRNA signature including the same 6 miRNA's, resulting in a HR of 0.66 (95%-CI 0.53-0.82).
Conclusion: Cell-free circulating miRNA-profiling successfully identified a highly prognostic 6-gene signature in patients with advanced non-squamous NSCLC. Circulating miRNA profiling should further be validated in external cohorts for the selection and monitoring of systemic treatment in patients with advanced NSCLC.
Keywords: Bevacizumab; Biomarkers; Chemotherapy; Erlotinib; Lung cancer; MicroRNA's.
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