A pipeline to quantify serum and cerebrospinal fluid microRNAs for diagnosis and detection of relapse in paediatric malignant germ-cell tumours

MJ Murray, E Bell, KL Raby, Martin Rijlaarsdam, Ad Gillis, LHJ (Leendert) Looijenga, H Brown, B Destenaves, JC Nicholson, N Coleman

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Background: The current biomarkers alpha-fetoprotein and human chorionic gonadotropin have limited sensitivity and specificity for diagnosing malignant germ-cell tumours (GCTs). MicroRNAs (miRNAs) from the miR-371-373 and miR-302/367 clusters are overexpressed in all malignant GCTs, and some of these miRNAs show elevated serum levels at diagnosis. Here, we developed a robust technical pipeline to quantify these miRNAs in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The pipeline was used in samples from a cohort of exclusively paediatric patients with gonadal and extragonadal malignant GCTs, compared with appropriate tumour and non-tumour control groups. Methods: We developed a method for miRNA quantification that enabled sample adequacy assessment and reliable data normalisation. We performed qRT-PCR profiling for miR-371-373 and miR-302/367 cluster miRNAs in a total of 45 serum and CSF samples, obtained from 25 paediatric patients. Results: The exogenous non-human spike-in cel-miR-39-3p and the endogenous housekeeper miR-30b-5p were optimal for obtaining robust serum and CSF qRT-PCR quantification. A four-serum miRNA panel (miR-371a-3p, miR-372-3p, miR-373-3p and miR-367-3p): (i) showed high sensitivity/specificity for diagnosing paediatric extracranial malignant GCT; (ii) allowed early detection of relapse of a testicular mixed malignant GCT; and (iii) distinguished intracranial malignant GCT from intracranial non-GCT tumours at diagnosis, using CSF and serum samples. Conclusions: The pipeline we have developed is robust, scalable and transferable. It potentially promises to improve clinical management of paediatric (and adult) malignant GCTs.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)151-162
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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  • EMC MM-03-24-01

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