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Circulating microRNAs as biomarkers to assist the management of the malignant germ-cell-tumour subtype choriocarcinoma.

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Ward, Dawn 
Verduci, Lorena 
Nicholson, James C 


Germ-cell-tumours (GCTs) are heterogeneous and management is complex. The current conventional biomarkers, alpha-fetoprotein and human-chorionic-gonadotropin (HCG), have limited utility for diagnosis/follow-up as secretion is restricted to specific malignant-GCT subtypes and long half-life can make interpretation and clinical decision-making challenging. We sought to identify circulating microRNAs that reflected choriocarcinoma disease activity more accurately than HCG in a metastatic primary mediastinal nonseminomatous-GCT (PMNSGCT) case with elevated diagnostic serum HCG (>250,000U/L), consistent with pure choriocarcinoma. We undertook comprehensive microRNA profiling (n=754 microRNAs) using two 384-well TaqMan Low-Density-Array cards in 16 serum samples; 10 from PMNSGCT diagnosis/follow-up and six controls. Key findings underwent confirmatory qRT-PCR. We identified a serum panel of choriocarcinoma-specific ‘chromosome-19-microRNA-cluster’ (C19MC) microRNAs that were highly elevated at diagnosis but fell rapidly on treatment and normalised before the second full chemotherapy course. We also re-confirmed serum elevation of the previously identified malignant-GCT marker miR-371a-3p at diagnosis. These circulating microRNA markers reflected choriocarcinoma disease activity more accurately than serum HCG and real-time knowledge would have assisted clinical decision-making. With further study, these microRNA markers will facilitate future management of such patients and are likely to result in improved outcomes.



C19MC, Choriocarcinoma, Germ-cell-tumour, Human-chorionic-gonadotrophin, Mediastinal, miRNA

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Translational Oncology

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Isaac Newton Trust (1540 (f))
St Baldrick's Foundation (via Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) (2015-0743)
Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust (ACT) (minute 23/17 B (iv))
Medical Research Council (MR/R001146/1)
Acknowledgment of research support: The authors acknowledge grant funding from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation [reference 358099], the Isaac Newton Trust [reference 15.40f], the Medical Research Council [reference MR/R001146/1] and Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust [reference 23/17 B (iv)]. We are grateful for support from the Max Williamson Fund and from Christiane and Alan Hodson, in memory of their daughter Olivia. The funders were not involved in study design, data collection or interpretation, or decision to submit for publication.