Insights into the potential use of microRNAs as a novel class of biomarkers in esophageal cancer

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MicroRNAs (abbreviated miRNAs) have been demonstrated to be involved in tumorigenesis and cancer development and proposed as promising biomarkers in cancer diagnosis. Numerous studies have observed the aberrant expression of miRNAs in esophageal cancer. However, there are some discrepant results. Thus, we conducted this meta-analysis to identify the overall accuracy of miRNAs in the diagnosis of esophageal cancer. A comprehensive literature search was conducted in PubMed and other databases using combinations of key words. The summary receiver operator characteristic curves were plotted to assess the overall diagnostic performance of miRNAs. Chi-squared andI2tests were used to assess the heterogeneity between studies. Additionally, we conducted subgroup and sensitivity analyses to analyze the potential sources of heterogeneity. In total, 33 studies from 12 articles were available in this meta-analysis. The pooled sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative likelihood ratio (PLR, NLR) diagnostic odds ratio, and area under the curve were 0.80, 0.80, 4.0, 0.25, 16, and 0.87, respectively. Subgroup analyses based on the sample types (saliva-, serum- and plasma-based) showed no differences in the diagnostic accuracy of each subgroup. An independent meta-analysis of eight articles was conducted to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of miRNAs in patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, with a pooled sensitivity of 0.77, specificity of 0.83, PLR of 4.4, NLR of 0.27, diagnostic odds ratio of 16, and area under the curve of 0.87. In conclusion, this meta-analysis demonstrates the feasibility of using miRNAs as non-invasive biomarkers to discriminate esophageal cancer from healthy controls. However, further high-quality studies on more clearly defined esophageal cancer patient are needed to confirm our conclusion.

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