Micro RNA (miR)-26b-5p and miR-451a could be a reliable diagnostic biomarkers in medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), according to a new study published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation. These miRNAs constitute a novel noninvasive tool that could potentially be used in precision medicine to treat the disease.

It is of great importance to identify tumor biomarkers to offer patients personalized medicine, especially in the case of rare cancers such as MTC, the authors noted.

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In the present study, a team of researchers from the Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, evaluated the miRNA expression levels in 23 paired MTC tissue and plasma extracellular vesicle samples obtained from patients with MTC at different centers.

Using Lasso logistic regression analysis, the team identified a group of circulating miRNAs that could be used as diagnostic markers for MTC. Of these, miR-26b-5p and miR-451a were highly expressed. 

The expression of these 2 miRNAs decreased in patients who were disease-free at follow-up. 

These 2 miRNAs were validated in a second group of 12 patients. 

“This study allowed the identification and validation of a signature of 2 circulating miRNAs, miR-26b-5p and miR-451a, in 2 independent cohorts reporting a significant diagnostic performance for MTC,” the researchers wrote.

“Altogether, the results of the study can provide clinicians a most needed tool for MTC diagnosis and patient management,” they added.

MTC is a rare type of neuroendocrine tumor of the thyroid gland arising from the parafollicular or C cells. The malignant C cells secrete high levels of calcitonin and carcinoembryonic antigen that can both be used as biomarkers to diagnose the disease. However, a definite diagnosis can only be reached via surgical pathology. 

miRNAs are a class of small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression after transcription and that have been implicated in different diseases.


Besharat ZM, Trocchianesi S, Verrienti A, et al. Circulating miR-26b-5p and miR-451a as diagnostic biomarkers in medullary thyroid carcinoma patients. J Endocrinol Invest. Published online June 7, 2023. doi:10.1007/s40618-023-02115-2