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Investigating intra-tumor heterogeneity and expression gradients of miR-21, miR-92a and miR-200c and their potential of predicting lymph node metastases in early colorectal cancer

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INTRODUCTION: miR-21, miR-92a and miR-200c are regulators of pathways involved in migration, intravasation and metastasis, and their tumor expression levels have been proposed as potential prognostic markers in colorectal cancer (CRC). In two parallel cohorts we examine intra-tumor expression levels in early stage CRC tissue in order to determine intra-tumor heterogeneity, potential systematic intra-tumor expression gradients of the miRNAs and to investigate the association to metastatic disease in early stage CRC.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Two parallel studies on archived formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) CRC tissue. Intra-tumor and inter-patient variances were analyzed in 9 early metastatic CRCs by measuring expression levels by qRT-PCR on isolated tissue samples from luminal, central and invasive border zones. Associations between miRNA expression levels and early metastasizing tumors was investigated in FFPE tissue from invasive border and central tumor zones from 47 early metastatic CRCs matched with 47 non-metastatic CRCs. Intra-tumor expression gradients were analyzed on both cohorts.

RESULTS: Mean intra-tumor coefficient of variation in the heterogeneity cohort was 38.5% (range: 33.1-49.0%) only slightly less than variation between patients (45.1%, range 37.0-49.5%). We demonstrated systematic expression gradients between tumor zones equal to a 3.23 (p=0.003) and 1.36 (p=0.014) fold lower expression in invasive areas for miR-200c, 1.52 (p<0.001) and 1.27 (p=0.021) fold lower expression in invasive areas for miR-92a. For miR-21 we found a 1.75 (p<0.001) and 1.21 (p=0.064) fold higher expression in invasive areas compared to luminal and central zones, respectively. No significant difference in expression levels between metastatic and non-metastatic tumors was demonstrated, nor a difference in intra-tumor gradients between metastatic and non-metastatic tumors.

CONCLUSION: This study provides evidence for moderate intra-tumor and inter-patient heterogeneities of three well-described potential prognostic markers in CRC. We demonstrate intra-tumor expression gradients indicating a differentiated expression of the target miRNAs between functional tumor zones, but the potential role as markers of early metastatic disease is still not fully clarified.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental and Molecular Pathology
Volume101
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)187-196
Number of pages10
ISSN0014-4800
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2016

ID: 49670328