breast cancer urine test

Researchers identify a unique pattern of miRNA expression in the urine of breast cancer patients with potential to be used as a breast cancer urine test.


A study published this month in BMC Cancer has investigated the possibility of a urine test for breast cancer. Researchers from Germany, based the study on recent research that has demonstrated the potential for microRNAs (miRNAs) to be used as blood biomarkers in breast cancer. These miRNAs are small nucleotide sequences that have been shown to be involved in regulating many genes, including genes involved in cancer cell growth. The researchers identified nine miRNAs that were relevant to breast cancer that were included in the the development of the urine test.

The researchers then aimed to determine whether a specific pattern of miRNAs in the urine could be used as a test for breast cancer. The nine identified miRNAs (miR-21, miR-34a, miR-125b, miR-155, miR-195, miR-200b, miR-200c, miR-375, miR-451) were assessed in 24 untreated, primary breast cancer patients, and compared to 24 healthy controls.

The study revealed significant differences in the expression of four of the nine breast cancer associated miRNAs in the urine of the participants. Levels of miR-155 were significantly higher in the urine of breast cancer patients compared with controls. Whereas, levels of miR-21, miR-125b, and miR-451 were significantly lower in the urine of breast cancer patients compared to controls.

The researchers reported for the first time the possibility of detecting specific breast cancer-related miRNAs in the urine of breast cancer patients. This new and specific pattern of expression that was distinguishable between breast cancer patients and healthy patients supports further research and development of a urine test for breast cancer detection.


Erbes, T, Hirschfeld, M, Rücker, G, Jaeger, M, Boas, J, Iborra, S, Mayer, S, Gitsch, G, Stickeler, E. “Feasibility of urinary microRNA detection in breast cancer patients and its potential as an innovative non-invasive biomarker” BMC Cancer 2015, 15:193  doi:10.1186/s12885-015-1190-4

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Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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