Several treatments in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are histology-dependent, and the need for histology-related markers is increasing. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are promising molecular markers in multiple cancers and show differences in expression depending on histological subtype. The miRNA family miR-200 has been associated with the regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal (EMT)/mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET). EMT involves profound phenotypic changes that include the loss of cell-cell adhesion, the loss of cell polarity, and the acquisition of migratory and invasive properties that facilitates metastasis. A dual role for the miR-200 family in the prognosis of several tumors has been related to tumor cell origin. However, the prognostic role and function of miR-200 family in early-stage NSCLC adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) have not been well established.
miRNA expression was determined using TaqMan assays in 155 tumors from resected NSCLC patients. Functional studies were conducted in three NSCLC cell lines: H23, A-549 and HCC-44.
High miR-200c expression was associated with shorter overall survival (OS) in the entire cohort (p = 0.024). High miR-200c (p = 0.0004) and miR-141 (p = 0.009) expression correlated with shorter OS in adenocarcinoma – but not in SCC. In the multivariate analysis, a risk score based on miR-141 and miR-200c expression emerged as an independent prognostic factor for OS in the entire cohort (OR, 2.787; p = 0.033) and in adenocarcinoma patients (OR, 10.649; p = 0.002). Functional analyses showed that miR-200c, was related to mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) and affected cell migration and E-cadherin levels, while overexpression of miR-141 reduced KLF6 protein levels and produced an increase of secretion of VEGFA in vitro (H23, p = 0.04; A-549, p = 0.03; HCC-44, p = 0.02) and was associated with higher blood microvessel density in patient tumor samples (p<0.001).
High miR-141 and miR-200c expression are associated with shorter OS in NSCLC patients with adenocarcinoma through MET and angiogenesis.