Long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) are RNA molecules that are more than 200 nucleotides long and have the ability to modify the activity of genes. They can be found in both healthy and cancer tissues, as well as in plasma, saliva and other bodily fluids. They can also be used as biomarkers of early detection, prognosis and chemotherapy resistance in several cancer types. Treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients with locally advanced disease is still difficult, and choice of treatment should be based on more precise and available biomarkers, such as those obtained from a liquid biopsy. For improvement of treatment efficacy, identification and clinical implementation of new biomarkers are of the utmost importance. Methods:
Plasma samples drawn before (p1) and three cycles post (p2) (TPF: docetaxel, cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil/PF: cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil) chemotherapy from 53 HNSCC patients (17 with locally advanced and 36 with metastatic disease) and 14 healthy volunteers were studied. Expression levels of 90 lncRNA expression were analyzed using the qRT-PCR method, and the obtained results were compared between proper groups. Statistical analyses were carried out using Jupyter Notebooks (5.7.2), Python (ver. 3.6) and GraphPad Prism 8. Results:
The study demonstrated the differences between the expressions of several lncRNA in cancer patients’ and healthy volunteers’ plasma, as well as between locally advanced and metastatic patients’ groups. A correlation between the response to systemic therapy and lncRNA expression levels was observed. Patients with a (high/low) expression of Alpha 250 and Emx2os showed statistically significant differences in progression free survival (PFS), as well as for overall survival (OS) depending on the level of Alpha 250, snaR, SNHG1. The univariate and multivariate Cox regression model showed Alpha 250 as the best prognostic factor for HNSCC patients. Conclusions:
Liquid biopsies based on lncRNAs are promising diagnostic tools that can be used to differentiate between those with cancer and healthy individuals. Additionally, they can also serve as biomarkers for chemotherapy resistance. An identified, circulating lncRNA Alpha 250 seems to prove the best prognostic biomarker, associated with extended PFS and OS, and should be validated in a larger cohort in the future.
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