Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the sixth most common cancer worldwide with high mortality. Circulating miRNA has been demonstrated as a novel noninvasive biomarker for many tumors. A new study by collaborators in China sought to investigate the potential of circulating miR-125b as a prognostic marker of HCC. In the work, exosomes were extracted from serum samples collected from two independent cohorts: cohort 1: HCC (n=30), chronic hepatitis B (CHB, n=30), liver cirrhosis (LC, n=30); cohort 2: HCC (n=128). The researchers found that miR-125b levels were remarkably increased in exosomes compared to those in serum from patients with CHB, LC, and HCC (P<0.01, respectively). However, miR-125b levels in exosomes and the serum from HCC patients were inferior to that of CHB (P<0.01 and P=0.06) and LC patients (P<0.01 for all). Additionally, miR-125b levels in exosomes were associated with tumor number (P=0.02), encapsulation (P<0.01), and TNM stage (P<0.01). In TMN, T describes the size of the original tumor and whether it has invaded nearby tissue; N describes nearby (regional) lymph nodes that are involved; and M describes distant metastasis. Kaplan–Meier analysis indicated that HCC patients with lower exosomal miR-125b levels showed reduced time to recurrence (TTR) (P<0.01) and overall survival (OS) (P<0.01). Furthermore, multivariate analysis revealed that miR-125b level in exosomes, but not in serum, was an independent predictive factor for TTR (P<0.001) and OS (P=0.011).
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