BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Prognostic biomarkers identifying patients with early tumor progression after local ablative therapy remain an unmet clinical need. The aim of this study was to investigate circulating miR-21 and miR-210 levels as prognostic biomarkers of HCC treated by CT-guided high-dose rate brachytherapy (HDR-BT). MATERIALS AND METHODS: 24 consecutive HCC patients (BCLC A and B) treated with CT-guided HDR-BT (1 × 15 Gy) were included in this prospective IRB-approved study. RT-PCR was performed to quantify miR-21 and miR-210 levels in blood samples acquired prior to and 2 d after HDR-BT. Follow-up imaging (contrast-enhanced liver MRI and whole-body CT) was performed in 3 months follow-up intervals. Therapy response was assessed with patients classified as either responders or non-responders (12 each). Responders were defined as having no local or diffuse systemic progression within 6 months and no diffuse systemic progression exceeding 3 nodules/nodule diameter > 3 cm from 6 months to 2 years. Non-responders had recurrence within 6 months and/or tumor progression with > 3 nodules or individual lesion diameter > 3 cm or extrahepatic disease within two years, respectively. Biostatistics included parametric and non-parametric testing (Mann-Whitney-U-test), as well as Kaplan-Meier curve construction. RESULTS: The responder group demonstrated significantly decreasing miR-21 values 2 d post therapy compared to non-responders (median miR-21 2-ΔΔCт: responders 0.73 [IQR 0.34], non-responders 1.53 [IQR 1.48]; p = 0.0102). miR-210 did not show any significant difference between responders and non-responders (median miR-210 2-ΔΔCт: responders 0.74 [IQR 0.45], non-responders 0.99 [IQR 1.13]; p = 0.8399). Kaplan-Meier curves demonstrated significantly shorter time to systemic progression for increased miR-21 (p = 0.0095) but not miR-210 (p = 0.7412), with events accumulating > 1 year post therapy in non-responders (median time to systemic progression 397 days). CONCLUSION: Increasing circulating miR-21 levels are associated with poor response and shorter time to systemic progression in HDR-BT-treated HCC. This proof-of-concept study provides a basis for further investigation of miR-21 as a prognostic biomarker and potential stratifier in future clinical trials of interventional oncology therapies. TRIAL REGISTRATION: In this monocentric clinical study, we analyzed prospectively acquired data of 24 patients from the "ESTIMATE" patient cohort (Studiennummer: DRKS00010587, Deutsches Register Klinischer Studien). Ethical approval was provided by the ethics committee "Ethikkommission bei der LMU München" (reference number "17-346") on June 20, 2017 and August 26, 2020.
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- Interventional oncology