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Cell-free miRNAs may indicate diagnosis and docetaxel sensitivity of tumor cells in malignant effusions

Li Xie1, Xi Chen2, Lifeng Wang1, Xiaoping Qian1, Tingting Wang1, Jia Wei1, Lixia Yu1, Yitao Ding3, Chenyu Zhang2* and Baorui Liu1*

Author Affiliations

1 The Comprehensive Cancer Center of Drum Tower Hospital Affiliated to Medical School of Nanjing University & Clinical Cancer Institute of Nanjing University, Zhongshan Road 321#, Nanjing 2l0008, PR China

2 Jiangsu Diabetes Center, State Key Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Life Science School of Nanjing University, Nanjing 2l0093, PR China

3 Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Drum Tower Hospital Affiliated to Medical School of Nanjing University, Zhongshan Road 321#, Nanjing 210093, PR China

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:591  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-591

Published: 28 October 2010



Circulating cell-free microRNAs have been identified as potential cancer biomarkers. However, the existence and the potential application of cell-free miRNAs in effusion samples are still uncertain. In order to explore the potential role of cell-free miRNA in malignant effusions, we selected 22 miRNAs differentially expressed in the serum of lung cancer patients and studied their expression levels in body cavity effusion samples.


We measured the expression of 22 miRNAs using qRT-PCR in two samples, which were pooled with 18 malignant and 12 benign effusions, respectively. After discarding 9 lowly expressed miRNAs, a panel of 13 miRNAs were measured in 29 samples (benign n = 11, malignant n = 18). We also carried out a WST-8 test to evaluate the docetaxel sensitivity of tumor cells directly isolated from 15 malignant effusions.


We compared the miRNA expression levels between benign and malignant effusions using a Mann-Whitney U test and found miR-24, miR-26a and miR-30d were expressed differently between the two groups (P = 0.006, 0.021 and 0.011, respectively). Cells isolated from effusions rich in cell-free miR-152 were more sensitive to docetaxel (r = 0.60, P = 0.016).


Collectively, our study demonstrated that cell-free miRNAs in the supernatant of effusions may aid in the diagnosis of malignancy and predict chemosensitivity to docetaxel.