The study provides a more accurate tool for stratifying patients with HER2-positive breast cancer

MiRNA can be used as a biomarker to predict disease recurrence and mortality in breast cancer patients

Researchers at the University of Galway have found that biomarkers known as microRNAs can help predict which breast cancer patients are likely to face disease recurrence and death.

Scientists led by Dr. Matthew Davey, Professor Michael Kerin and Dr. Nicola Miller of the University’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences conducted a multicentre study in Ireland involving 124 patients treated with chemotherapy.

The research results were published in Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACKS).

They contain:

  • MiRNAs can be used as a biomarker to predict which patients are likely to face breast cancer recurrence and mortality.
  • Researchers conducting a multi-centre study in Ireland took blood samples from 124 breast cancer patients at 5 different time points during their cancer journey and assessed their outcomes almost nine years later.
  • The researchers say their discovery of the predictive value of miR-145 could help doctors better tailor treatment to the needs of each breast cancer patient.

According to figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, more than 3,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. While long-term outcomes have improved for patients with breast cancer, the most common cancer diagnosed in women, 20 to 30% of these patients will have a relapse of their breast cancer.

Dr Davey said: “The process of identifying which patients are more likely to relapse has been challenging. So we set out to see if miRNAs – small, non-coding molecules that modulate genetic expression and influence cancer development – are able to predict which patients are more likely to develop , that they will recur and die of breast cancer.

“We found that patients with increased expression of a certain type of miRNA, called miR-145, were less likely to have breast cancer recurrence.

“We showed that the increased expression of this biomarker, which was measured in the blood samples of patients during chemotherapy, actually predicted their long-term cancer outcome. We can predict those who are likely to suffer a recurrence as well as those who will be free of recurrence.” Further studies of the clinical application of this biomarker are underway.

“This study may also help identify breast cancer patients who might benefit from closer monitoring and other therapies after surgery or treatment.”

This research is made possible by the National Breast Cancer Research Institute and Cancer Trials Ireland.


National University of Ireland Galway

Link to journal:

Davey, MG, et al. (2022) Assessing the Role of Circulating MicroRNAs in Predicting Long-Term Survival Outcomes in Breast Cancer: A Prospective, Multicenter Clinical Study. Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

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