Improved detection of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is needed, as current detection methods, such as alpha fetoprotein (AFP) and ultrasound, suffer from poor sensitivity. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs that regulate many cellular functions and impact cancer development and progression. Notably, miRNAs are detectable in saliva and have shown potential as non-invasive biomarkers for a number of cancers including breast, oral, and lung cancers. Here, we present, to our knowledge, the first report of salivary miRNAs in HCC and compare these findings to patients with cirrhosis, a high-risk cohort for HCC.
We performed small RNA sequencing in 20 patients with HCC and 19 with cirrhosis. Eleven patients with HCC had chronic liver disease, and analyses were performed with these samples combined and stratified by the presence of chronic liver disease. P values were adjusted for multiple comparisons using a false discovery rate (FDR) approach and miRNA with FDR P < 0.05 were considered statistically significant. Differential expression of salivary miRNAs was compared to a previously published report of miRNAs in liver tissue of patients with HCC vs cirrhosis. Support vector machines and leave-one-out cross-validation were performed to determine if salivary miRNAs have predictive potential for detecting HCC.
A total of 4,565 precursor and mature miRNAs were detected in saliva and 365 were significantly different between those with HCC compared to cirrhosis (FDR P < 0.05). Interestingly, 283 of these miRNAs were significantly downregulated in patients with HCC. Machine-learning identified a combination of 10 miRNAs and covariates that accurately classified patients with HCC (AUC = 0.87). In addition, we identified three miRNAs that were differentially expressed in HCC saliva samples and in a previously published study of miRNAs in HCC tissue compared to cirrhotic liver tissue.
This study demonstrates, for the first time, that miRNAs relevant to HCC are detectable in saliva, that salivary miRNA signatures show potential to be highly sensitive and specific non-invasive biomarkers of HCC, and that additional studies utilizing larger cohorts are needed.
There are conflicting results regarding the association between chronic liver disease (CLD) and depression and the underlying biological mechanisms are lack of investigation. To address the impact of depression and its effects on the management of CLD, its biological marker is critical to be identified. The present study explored the association between serum albumin and depression in CLD patients and whether the association varied in different liver histological stages.
Based on the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2017–2018, the data of serum albumin and depressive symptoms from 627 participants with CLD were used. Depression symptoms were assessed with the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). We used multivariate linear regression to evaluate the association between serum albumin and PHQ-9 scores. Stratified analysis was performed according to the liver histology examined by vibration controlled transient elastography.
Serum albumin level was inversely associated with PHQ-9 scores in the multivariate regression model after adjusting for mainly potential confounders (β = − 1.113, 95% CI: − 2.065 to − 0.162, P = 0.0221). In the subgroup analysis stratified by gender, controlled attenuation parameter (CAP) and liver stiffness measurement (LSM), the inverse association remained significant in female (β = − 2.002, 95% CI: − 3.515 to − 0.489, P = 0.0100), patients with CAP < 274 dB/m (β = − 2.215, 95% CI: − 3.621 to − 0.808, P = 0.0023) and patients with LSM ≥8.2 kPa (β = − 4.074, 95% CI: − 6.237 to − 1.911, P = 0.0003). Moreover, the association was much stronger when the serum albumin was higher than 3.4 g/dL among patients with LSM ≥8.2 kPa (β = − 4.835, 95% CI: − 7.137 to − 2.533, P < 0.0001).
Our study revealed an inverse association between serum albumin and depression in CLD patients and this association differed according to liver histological changes. Serum albumin could be a warning marker for depressive symptoms in CLD patients. It is essential for taking corresponding intervention strategies.