Spanish researchers led a study that demonstrates the usefulness of miRNA in semen as markers for prostate cancer. The finding could prevent overdiagnosis of these tumors and unnecessary biopsies in benign disease.
Experts of the Human Molecular Genetics group of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), led by Sara Larriba, in collaboration with Francesc Vigués and Manel Castells of the Urology Service of Bellvitge University Hospital (HUB), show the usefulness of semen miRNAs, as non-invasive biomarkers of prostate cancer. The results of this study were published in Scientific Reports.
Semen can be considered a liquid biopsy of the organs of the male reproductive system, and specifically of the prostate gland: approximately 40% of semen is derived from prostate tissue, so it is likely to contain specific molecules derived from prostate disease.
Larriba’s group, focused on the study of molecular genetic of male infertility and urogenital cancer, showed that the quantification of certain ribonucleic acid molecules (miRNAs), contained in extracellular vesicles of plasma seminally, could be clinically useful as non-invasive biomarkers for prostate cancer.
“Our study shows models based on miRNAs of semen exosomes as molecular biomarkers with the potential to improve the effectiveness of the diagnosis or prognosis of prostate cancer. These miRNA-based tests provide reliable information that will help doctors make clinical decisions, as well as save unnecessary invasive biopsies for patients, improving the efficiency of prostate cancer detection and the quality of patient care,” explains Larriba.
Deficiencies of previous markers
Prostate cancer is the most common type of malignant male cancer in Western countries. In recent years, a significant decrease in mortality has been achieved thanks to the use of PSA (prostate specific antigen) in the blood as a tumor marker. However, PSA deficiencies as a biomarker are well documented.
“In many cases, having high levels of PSA does not mean presenting prostate cancer, it is also associated with other diseases such as benign prostatic hyperplasia or prostatitis. Therefore, the PSA test has resulted in an overdiagnosis of prostate cancers and many unnecessary biopsies of benign disease,” says Vigués.
“In addition, serum PSA levels do not correlate with tumor aggressiveness, survival or response to pharmacological treatments, which leads to excessive treatment of non-aggressive tumors. In this context, non-invasive biomarkers would be really welcome –more accurate for prostate cancer for diagnostic and prognostic purposes,” adds Castells.
“Our goal is to offer our results to clinics as a diagnostic test. In that sense, and as a next step, we must carry out prospective studies in broader cohorts of patients before this biomarker based on miRNAs can be adopted in clinical practice,” concludes Larriba.