MicroRNA-15b-5p Predicts Locoregional Relapse in Head and Neck Carcinoma Patients Treated With Intensity-modulated Radiotherapy

Cancer Genomics Proteomics. 2019 Mar-Apr;16(2):139-146. doi: 10.21873/cgp.20119.


Background/aim: Head and neck cancers are a heterogenous group of epithelial tumors represented mainly by squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC), which are the sixth most common type of cancer worldwide. Surgery together with radiotherapy (RT) is among the basic treatment modalities for most HNSCC patients. Various biomarkers aiming to predict patients' response to RT are currently investigated. The reason behind this effort is, on one hand, to distinguish radioresistant patients that show weak benefit from RT and, on the other hand, reduce the ionizing radiation dose in less aggressive radiosensitive HNSCC with possibly less acute or late toxicity.

Materials and methods: A total of 94 HNSCC patients treated by definitive intensity-modulated radiotherapy were included in our retrospective study. We used a global expression analysis of microRNAs (miRNAs) in 43 tumor samples and validated a series of selected miRNAs in an independent set of 51 tumors.

Results: We identified miR-15b-5p to be differentially expressed between patients with short and long time of locoregional control (LRC). Kaplan-Meier analysis confirmed that HNSCC patients with higher expression of miR-15b-5p reach a significantly longer locoregional relapse-free survival compared to patients expressing low levels. Finally, multivariable Cox regression analysis revealed that miR-15b-5p is an independent predictive biomarker of LRC in HNSCC patients (HR=0.25; 95% CI=0.05-0.78; p<0.016).

Conclusion: miR-15b-5p represents a potentially helpful biomarker for individualized treatment decisions concerning the management of HNSCC patients.

Keywords: Head and neck cancer; IMRT; locoregional control; miR-15b-5p; microRNA; radiotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / radiation effects
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / genetics
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / radiotherapy*
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / genetics
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / pathology
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / radiotherapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MIRN15 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs