MicroRNAs Targeting HIF-2α, VEGFR1 and/or VEGFR2 as Potential Predictive Biomarkers for VEGFR Tyrosine Kinase and HIF-2α Inhibitors in Metastatic Clear-Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma

Cancers (Basel). 2021 Jun 21;13(12):3099. doi: 10.3390/cancers13123099.


Metastatic clear-cell renal cell carcinoma (m-ccRCC) is characterized by increased hypoxia-induced factor (HIF)-2α and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR)-dependent angiogenesis through loss of function of the von Hippel-Lindau protein. VEGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (VEGFR-TKIs) are a cornerstone of m-ccRCC treatment, and new treatments targeting HIF-2α are currently under investigation. However, predictive biomarkers for these treatments are lacking. In this retrospective cohort study including 109 patients treated with VEGFR-targeted therapies as first-line treatment, we aimed to study the possible predictive function of microRNAs (miRNAs) targeting HIF-2α, VEGFR1 and VEGFR2. We selected miRNAs inversely correlated with HIF-2α, VEGFR1 and/or VEGFR2 expression and with predicted target sites in the respective genes and subsequently studied their impact on therapeutic outcomes. We identified four miRNAs (miR-34c-5p, miR-221-3p, miR-222-3p and miR-3529-3p) inversely correlated with VEGFR1 and/or VEGFR2 expression and associated with tumor shrinkage and progression-free survival (PFS) upon treatment with VEGFR-TKIs, highlighting the potential predictive value of these miRNAs. Moreover, we identified three miRNAs (miR-185-5p, miR-223-3p and miR-3529-3p) inversely correlated with HIF-2α expression and associated with tumor shrinkage and PFS upon treatment with VEGFR-TKIs. These three miRNAs can have a predictive value not only upon treatment with VEGFR-TKIs but possibly also upon treatment with the upcoming HIF-2α inhibitor belzutifan.

Keywords: HIF-2α; VEGFR2; miR-185-5p; miR-221-3p; miR-222-3p; miR-223-3p; miR-34c-5p; miR-3529-3p; microRNAs; renal cell carcinoma.