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Lung Cancer. 2010 Feb;67(2):170-6. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2009.04.004. Epub 2009 May 14.

Altered miRNA expression in sputum for diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Analysis of molecular genetic markers in biological fluids has been proposed as a useful tool for cancer diagnosis. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small regulatory RNAs that are frequently dysregulated in lung cancer and have shown promise as tissue-based markers for its prognostication. The aim of this study was to determine whether aberrant miRNA expression can be used as a marker in sputum specimen for the diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).


expressions of mature miRNAs, mir-21 and mir-155, were examined by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and normalized to that of control miRNA, U6B, in sputum of 23 patients with NSCLC and 17 cancer-free subjects. The data was compared with conventional sputum cytology for the diagnosis of lung cancer. All endogenous miRNAs were present in sputum in a remarkably stable form and sensitively and specifically detected by real-time RT-PCR. Mir-21 expression in the sputum specimens was significantly higher in cancer patients (76.32+/-9.79) than cancer-free individuals (62.24+/-3.82) (P<0.0001). Furthermore, overexpression of mir-21 showed highly discriminative receiver-operator characteristic (ROC) curve profile, clearly distinguishing cancer patients from cancer-free subjects with areas under the ROC curve at 0.902+/-0.054. Detection of mir-21 expression produced 69.66% sensitivity and 100.00% specificity in diagnosis of lung cancer, as compared with 47.82% sensitivity and 100.00% specificity by sputum cytology. The measurement of altered miRNA expression in sputum could be a useful noninvasive approach for the diagnosis of lung cancer.

Copyright 2009 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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