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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47003. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047003. Epub 2012 Oct 10.

Serum microRNA-155 as a potential biomarker to track disease in breast cancer.

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National Center for Clinical Laboratories, Beijing Hospital of the Ministry of Health, Beijing, People's Republic of China.



One major impediment to improving the management of breast cancer is the current lack of tumor marker with sufficient sensitivity and specificity. A growing body of evidence implicates the diagnostic potential of circulating miRNAs in cancer detection. MiR-155 plays an important role in the pathogenesis of breast cancer. However, the level of circulating miR-155 and its clinical relevance are not well established. The objective of the current study was to learn more about serum miR-155 in patients with breast cancer.


Using quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), we demonstrated that serum miR-155 had significant increased levels in breast cancer patients (n = 103) compared with healthy subjects (n = 55) (p<0.001), which had a mean fold change of 2.94. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis revealed that miR-155 had considerable diagnostic accuracy, yielding an ROC-AUC (the areas under the ROC curve) of 0.801 (sensitivity 65.0%, specificity 81.8%). In addition, sera from a subset of breast cancer patients (n = 29) were collected after surgery and after four cycles of chemotherapy to evaluate the effects of clinical treatment on serum levels of candidate miRNAs. Surprisingly, a decreased level of serum miR-155 was found; whereas the concentrations of carbohydrate antigen 15-3 (CA15-3), carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and tissue polypeptide specific antigen (TPS) did not show this trend. Our results revealed that 79% patients showed response or stable disease after therapy had declined levels of serum miR-155.


Our results suggest that serum miR-155 is a potential biomarker to discriminate breast cancer patients from healthy subjects. For the first time, we demonstrated a declined trend of miR-155 after surgery and chemotherapy, which raises the possibility to use it as an indicator for treatment response.

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