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BACKGROUND: miRNAs are small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression and are linked to cancer development and progression. miRNA profiles are currently studied as new prognostic factors or therapeutic perspectives. Among hematological cancers, myelodysplastic syndromes at higher risk of evolution into acute myeloid leukemia are treated with hypomethylating agents, like azacitidine, alone or in combination with other drugs, such as lenalidomide. Recent data showed that, during azacitidine and lenalidomide therapy, the concurrent acquisition of specific point mutations affecting inositide signalling pathways is associated with lack or loss of response to therapy. As these molecules are implicated in epigenetic processes, possibly involving miRNA regulation, and in leukemic progression, through the regulation of proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis, here we performed a new miRNA expression analysis of 26 high-risk patients with myelodysplastic syndromes treated with azacitidine and lenalidomide at baseline and during therapy. miRNA array data were processed, and bioinformatic results were correlated with clinical outcome to investigate the translational relevance of selected miRNAs, while the relationship between selected miRNAs and specific molecules was experimentally tested and proven. RESULTS: Patients' overall response rate was 76.9% (20/26 cases): complete remission (5/26, 19.2%), partial remission (1/26, 3.8%), marrow complete remission (2/26, 7.7%), hematologic improvement (6/26, 23.1%), hematologic improvement with marrow complete remission (6/26, 23.1%), whereas 6/26 patients (23.1%) had a stable disease. miRNA paired analysis showed a statistically significant up-regulation of miR-192-5p after 4 cycles of therapy (vs baseline), that was confirmed by real-time PCR analyses, along with an involvement of BCL2, that was proven to be a miR-192-5p target in hematopoietic cells by luciferase assays. Furthermore, Kaplan-Meier analyses showed a significant correlation between high levels of miR-192-5p after 4 cycles of therapy and overall survival or leukemia-free survival, that was stronger in responders, as compared with patients early losing response and non-responders. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that high levels of miR-192-5p are associated with higher overall survival and leukemia-free survival in myelodysplastic syndromes responding to azacitidine and lenalidomide. Moreover, miR-192-5p specifically targets and inhibits BCL2, possibly regulating proliferation and apoptosis and leading to the identification of new therapeutic targets.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Epigenetics

Publication Date





Azacitidine, BCL2, Lenalidomide, Myelodysplastic syndromes, miRNA profiling, Humans, Azacitidine, Lenalidomide, MicroRNAs, DNA Methylation, Myelodysplastic Syndromes, Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2