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Br J Cancer. 2010 Nov 9;103(10):1617-26. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605958. Epub 2010 Oct 26.

MicroRNA-21 induces resistance to the anti-tumour effect of interferon-α/5-fluorouracil in hepatocellular carcinoma cells.

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Department of Surgery, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Suita, 2-2 Yamadaoka E-2, Osaka 565-0871, Japan.



We reported recently the clinical efficiency of interferon (IFN)-α/5-fluorouracil (5-FU) combination therapy in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, prediction of the response to the combination therapy remains unsatisfactory. The aim of this study was to investigate the anti-tumour effects of microRNA (miR)-21 on the sensitivity of HCC cells to IFN-α/5-FU and whether miR-21 can be used as a predictor of the response to such therapy in HCC.


Changes in the sensitivity of HCC cells (PLC/PRF/5 and HepG2) to IFN-α/5-FU were examined after transfection with pre-miR-21 or anti-miR-21. The correlation between miR-21 expression level, evaluated by qRT-PCR, and response to the therapy was also investigated in clinical HCC specimens.


Hepatocellular carcinoma cells transfected with pre-miR-21 were significantly resistant to IFN-α/5-FU. Annexin V assay showed that the percentage of apoptotic cells was significantly lower in cells transfected with pre-miR-21 than control cells. Transfection of anti-miR-21 rendered HCC cells sensitive to IFN-α/5-FU, and such sensitivity was weakened by transfection of siRNAs of target molecules, PETN and PDCD4. miR-21 expression in clinical HCC specimens was significantly associated with the clinical response to the IFN-α/5-FU combination therapy and survival rate.


The miR-21 in HCC cell lines and clinical HCC samples is a significant modulator of the anti-tumour effect of IFN-α and 5-FU. This suggests that miR-21 is a potentially suitable marker for the prediction of the clinical response to the IFN-α/5-FU combination therapy.

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