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Subspecialties Oncology, Hematology, Screening and monitoring

Finding Markers For Liver Cancer

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a common and often fatal liver cancer – but early detection could offer better outcomes for patients. Luckily, detection rates could be improved thanks to a recent study that showed a liver tsRNA – named tRF-Gln-TTG-006 – may have promise as an early blood biomarker for liver cancer. Alongside the knowledge that the tsRNA could indicate HCC, the team also found that it may play a biological role in the development of the disease (1).

Because the serum tsRNA signature in HCC has yet to be elucidated, the study adapted high-throughput sequencing capable of identifying hundreds of undiscovered tsRNAs. These new tsRNAs were then screened and vetted through a two-stage validation process, resulting in the discovery of tRF-Gln-TTG-006, which may identify HCC patients with significantly better accuracy than the commonly used α-fetoprotein biomarker.

The researchers also found that non-coding RNAs may play a large part in cell communication, suggesting a complex relationship between tumor, microenvironment, and immune cells.

Numerous assays demonstrated that tRF-Gln-TTG-006 has a repressive effect on HCC cells, highlighting its potential role as both a predictive biomarker and a functional regulator of HCC. The authors speculate that tsRNAs may harm HCC, causing the cancer cells to secure their survival by excreting tsRNAs to the serum. This may explain the significantly elevated levels of tRF-Gln-TTG-006 in HCC serum.

Though the study offers hope for improved outcomes, randomized clinical trials are needed to evaluate tRF-Gln-TTG-006’s potential as a diagnostic and prognostic tool for HCC.

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  1. S Zhan et al., Front. Med, 16, 216 (2022). PMID: 35416630.
About the Author
George Francis Lee

Deputy Editor, The Pathologist

Interested in how disease interacts with our world. Writing stories covering subjects like politics, society, and climate change.

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