MicroRNA-371a-3p (miR-371), the novel serum biomarker of testicular germ cell tumours (GCTs), is produced by undifferentiated subtypes of GCTs but not by teratoma. Cystic teratoma developing from retroperitoneal metastases of GCT subsequent to chemotherapy had been shown to contain high levels of classical serum tumour markers of GCT in the presence of normal marker levels in serum. To date, no information is available regarding the presence of miR-371 in the cystic fluid of residual teratoma after chemotherapy.
Four patients (age 18-26 years) undergoing retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND) for cystic residual masses resulting from chemotherapy of bulky retroperitoneal GCT had measurements of miR-371 in both serum and cystic fluid aspirated from surgical specimens. Measurement of the miR was performed with quantitative real-time PCR using miR-30b-5p as reference. Results were tabulated and analysed in a descriptive manner.
Histologically, all of the surgical specimens involved teratoma only with no evidence of vital undifferentiated GCT tissue. All patients were cured. Prior to RPLND, miR-371 serum levels were not measurable or close to zero in all of the patients. Cystic fluid revealed elevated levels of miR-371 in 3 patients and traces of miR in one.
The detection of miR-371 in the cystic fluid of teratoma is somewhat enigmatic since this GCT subtype usually does not express the miR. Two hypotheses may explain the finding: First, miR-371 molecules were released into the cystic fluid by active GCT tissue prior to chemotherapy. High levels were kept after regression of vital GCT tissue because the cystic lumen is without a specific drainage system. Second, teratoma cells lining the interior cyst wall may shed small amounts of miR-371 into the lumen. Because of the lacking drainage system, even small levels may accumulate. The present finding adds to the understanding of the biology of the novel biomarker of GCT.

© 2020 S. Karger AG, Basel.