Background and aim: Hepatocellular carcinoma is one of the major causes of death due to cancer worldwide, and its association with hepatitis C virus infection has been definitively established. Hepatitis C virus is also involved in the pathogenesis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This is the only virus infecting humans that is able to induce two different malignancies. We analyzed the expression levels of a panel of microRNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients with hepatitis C virus-related malignancies in order to find a disease-associated deregulation and identify specific biomarkers.
Methods: We tested peripheral blood mononuclear cells isolated from patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, hepatitis C virus without malignancies and healthy subjects for a panel of microRNA selected on the basis of previous studies. MicroRNA expression was evaluated by real-time PCR.
Results: Our results showed an upregulation of miRNA-21 and downregulation of miRNA-26b in hepatocellular carcinoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients compared to controls (p < 0.001). Deregulation of miRNA-16 and miRNA-155 was limited to lymphoma patients.
Conclusions: This study shows that some microRNAs are differently expressed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from hepatitis C virus patients who develop hepatocellular carcinoma or lymphoma, while others share a common behavior. Thus, analysis of the expression of microRNAs could be a noninvasive marker of hepatitis C virus-related carcinogenesis. This analysis could be a suitable tool for identifying the existence of a malignancy and also discriminating between these two hepatitis C virus-related cancers.
Keywords: Biomarker; Hepatitis C virus; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; microRNA.