PLoS ONE, 2017, Vol.12(4)
Many long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are deregulated in cancer and contribute to oncogenesis. In urothelial carcinoma (UC), several lncRNAs have been reported to be overexpressed and proposed as biomarkers. As most reports have not been confirmed independently in large tissue sets, we aimed to validate the diagnostic and prognostic value of lncRNA upregulation in independent cohorts of UC patients. Thus, expression of seven lncRNA candidates (GAS5, H19, linc-UBC1, MALAT1, ncRAN, TUG1, UCA1) was measured by RT-qPCR in cell lines and tissues and correlated to clinicopathological parameters including follow-up data (set 1: N n = 10; T n = 106). Additionally, publicly available TCGA data was investigated for differential expression in UC tissues (set 2: N n = 19; T n = 252,) and correlation to overall survival (OS). All proposed candidates tended to be upregulated in tumour tissues, with the exception of MALAT1, which was rather diminished in cancer tissues of both data sets. However, strong overexpression was generally limited to individual tumour tissues and statistically significant overexpression was only observed for UCA1, TUG1, ncRAN and linc-UBC1 in tissue set 2, but for no candidate in set 1. Altered expression of individual lncRNAs was associated with overall survival, but not consistently between both patient cohorts. Interestingly, lower expression of TUG1 in a subset of UC patients with muscle-invasive tumours was significantly correlated with worse OS in both cohorts. Further analysis revealed that tumours with low TUG1 expression are characterized by a basal-squamous-like subtype signature accounting for the association with poor outcome. In conclusion, our study demonstrates that overexpression of the candidate lncRNAs is found in many UC cases, but does not occur consistently and strongly enough to provide reliable diagnostic or prognostic value as an individual biomarker. Subtype-dependent expression patterns of lncRNAs like TUG1 could become useful to stratify patients by molecular subtype, thus aiding personalized treatments.
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