PURPOSE: α-fetoprotein (AFP) and human chorionic gonadotropin subunit beta (B-HCG) are informative serum biomarkers for the primary diagnosis and follow-up of testicular germ cell cancer (TGCC) patients. About 20% of TGCC patients with a non-seminoma (NS) and about 80% with a seminoma (SE) are, however, negative for these biomarkers. Embryonic stem cell microRNAs (miRs) may serve as promising alternative serum biomarkers. Here we investigated a retrospective series of serum samples from selected TGCC patients who developed a relapse in time to test the possible additional value of the serum-based ampTSmiR test compared to the conventional serum-based protein biomarkers for follow-up.
METHODS: We investigated 261 retrospective serum samples of six selected fully evaluated TGCC patients with a proven relapse using the ampTSmiR test for miR-371a-3p, miR-373-3p, and miR-367-3p and compared the results to those of the conventional protein biomarkers.
RESULTS: At primary diagnosis, elevated serum B-HCG, AFP and LDH levels were found to be informative in 4/6, 3/6 and 3/6 patients, respectively. At primary diagnosis the levels of miR-371a-3p and miR-373-3p were elevated in 4/4, and miR-367-3p in 3/4 patients. For two cases no starting serum sample was available for retrospective miR analysis. Residual disease (overlooked by histopathological examination) was detected in one case by miR-371a-3p only. The miR-371a-3p level was increased in one patient two months before detection of an intracranial metastasis. B-HCG was informative in 3/4 and the ampTSmiR test in 4/4 patients with a relapse or residual disease. None of the biomarkers were informative for the detection of residual mature teratoma.
CONCLUSIONS: The ampTSmiR test is more sensitive than the conventional TGCC protein biomarkers for the detection of residual disease and relapse, excluding mature teratoma.