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The World in Medicine
November 18, 2009

MicroRNA and Liver Cancer

JAMA. 2009;302(19):2083. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1682

A tiny piece of genetic material known as microRNA may help predict which patients with liver cancer will respond well to treatment with interferon, report a team of researchers in China and the United States (Ji J et al. N Engl J Med. 2009:361[15]:1347-1447).

This cohort study, which involved a total of 455 patients, found that overall, those whose tumors had high levels of a microRNA called miR-26 lived about 4 years longer than those with low levels. A separate analysis, of miR-26 levels in liver tumor samples from participants in a trial that assessed response to adjuvant interferon α therapy, revealed that those whose tumors had normal miR-26 levels did not benefit from interferon. However, among patients whose tumors had low miR-26 expression (and a poorer prognosis), those who received interferon survived at least 7.7 years longer than those who did not.