Stromal expression of miR-21 in T3-4a colorectal cancer is an independent predictor of early tumor relapse

Won Kyung Kang, Jin Kwon Lee, Seong Taek Oh, Sung Hak Lee, Chan Kwon Jung
BMC Gastroenterology 2015 January 22, 15: 2

BACKGROUND: MicroRNA-21 (miR-21) is an oncogenic microRNA that regulates the expression of multiple cancer-related target genes. miR-21 has been associated with progression of some types of cancer. Metastasis-associated protein1 expression and loss of E-cadherin expression are correlated with cancer progression and metastasis in many cancer types. In advanced colorectal cancer, the clinical significance of miR-21 expression remains unclear. We aimed to investigate the impact of miR-21 expression in advanced colorectal cancer and its correlation with target proteins associated with colorectal cancer progression.

METHODS: From 2004 to 2007, 277 consecutive patients with T3-4a colorectal cancer treated with R0 surgical resection were included. Patients with neoadjuvant therapy and distant metastasis at presentation were excluded. The expression of miR-21 was investigated by in situ hybridization. Immunohistochemistry was used to detect E-cadherin and metastasis-associated protein1 expression.

RESULTS: High stromal expression of miR-21 was found in 76 of 277 (27.4%) colorectal cancer samples and was correlated with low E-cadherin expression (P = 0.019) and high metastasis-associated protein1 expression (P = 0.004). T3-4a colorectal cancer patients with high miR-21 expression had significantly shorter recurrence-free survival than those with low miR-21 expression. When analyzing colon and rectal cancer separately, high expression of miR-21 was an independent prognostic factor of unfavorable recurrence-free survival in T3-4a colon cancer patients (P = 0.038, HR = 2.45; 95% CI = 1.05-5.72) but not in T3-4a rectal cancer patients. In a sub-classification analysis, high miR-21 expression was associated with shorter recurrence-free survival in the stage II cancer (P = 0.001) but not in the stage III subgroup (P = 0.267).

CONCLUSIONS: Stromal miR-21 expression is related to the expression of E-cadherin and metastasis-associated protein1 in colorectal cancer. Stage II colorectal cancer patients with high levels of miR-21 are at higher risk for tumor recurrence and should be considered for more intensive treatment.

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