An Integrative Meta-analysis of MicroRNAs in Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Distinguishing hepatocellular carcinoma from metastatic tumors in the liver is of great practical importance, with significant therapeutic and prognostic implications. This differential diagnosis can be difficult because metastatic cancers in the liver, especially adenocarcinomas, may mimic the morphology and immunoexpression of hepatocellular carcinoma. Biomarkers that are specifically expressed in either hepatocellular carcinoma or metastatic adenocarcinoma can therefore be useful diagnostic tools. To find such biomarkers, we studied microRNA expression in 144 tumor samples using custom microarrays. Hsa-miR-141 and hsa-miR-200c, microRNAs that promote epithelial phenotypes, had significantly higher levels in non-hepatic epithelial tumors. In contrast, endothelial-associated hsa-miR-126 showed higher expression levels in hepatocellular carcinomas. Combinations of these microRNAs accurately identified primary hepatocellular carcinoma from metastatic adenocarcinoma in the liver. These findings were validated using quantitative real-time PCR to measure microRNA expression in additional samples. Thus, the tissue-specific expression patterns of microRNAs make them useful biomarkers for the diagnosis of liver malignancies.