At the time of diagnosis, 60% of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) present tumors in an advanced stage (III-IV) of disease and 80% will relapse within the first two years post-treatment, due to their frequent radio(chemo)resistance. To identify new molecular targets and companion biomarkers, we have investigated the miRNome of 75 stage III-IV oropharynx tumors without relapse (R) or with loco-regional relapse (non-responder, NR) within two years post-treatment. Interestingly, miR-422a was significantly downregulated in NR tumors, in agreement with the increase in cell proliferation and adhesion induced by miR-422a inhibition in vitro. Furthermore, we identified CD73/NT5E oncogene as target of miR-422a. Indeed, modulation of the endogenous level of miR-422a inversely influences the expression and the enzymatic activity of CD73. Moreover, knocking down CD73 mimics the effects of miR-422a upregulation. Importantly, in tumors, miR-422a and CD73 expression levels are inversely correlated, and both are predictive of relapse free survival - especially considering loco(regional) recurrence - in vitro two independent cohorts of advanced oropharynx or HNSCC (N=255) tumors. In all, we reported, for the first time, that MiR-422a and its target CD73 are involved in early loco(regional) recurrence of HNSCC tumors and are new targets for personalized medicine.
Keywords: CD73; HNSCC; miR-422a; personalized medicine.