Circulating MicroRNAs as Biomarkers in Biliary Tract Cancers

Biliary tract cancers (BTCs) are a group of highly aggressive malignant tumors with a poor prognosis. The current diagnosis is based mainly on imaging and intraoperative exploration due to brush cytology having a low sensitivity and the standard markers, such as carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and carbohydrate 19-9 (CA19-9), not having enough sensitivity nor specificity to be used in a differential diagnosis and early stage detection. Thus, better non-invasive methods that can distinguish between normal and pathological tissue are needed. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, single-stranded non-coding RNA molecules of similar to 20-22 nucleotides that regulate relevant physiological mechanisms and can also be involved in carcinogenesis. Recent studies have demonstrated that miRNAs are detectable in multiple body fluids, showing great stability, either free or trapped in circulating microvesicles, such as exosomes. miRNAs are ideal biomarkers that may be used in screening and prognosis in biliary tract cancers, aiding also in the clinical decisions at different stages of cancer treatment. This review highlights the progress in the analysis of circulating miRNAs in serum, plasma and bile as potential diagnostic and prognostic markers of BTCs.

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