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Murray investigating circulating microRNA biomarkers

Our Research

Our lab works on the clinical and molecular aspects of solid tumours of childhood, particularly germ cell tumours (GCTs) – of which testicular cancer is the most common form. Our work has established emphasis on the role of non-coding RNAs such as microRNAs, which are short, non-protein-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally and are aberrantly expressed in cancer. We demonstrated for the first time that the miR-371~373 and miR-302/367 clusters are highly over-expressed in all malignant GCTs, regardless of patient age, histological subtype or anatomical site (published in Cancer Research in 2010). This is a specific change, as these microRNAs are not co-ordinately dysregulated in any other malignancy or disease state. We subsequently were the first to demonstrate the potential utility of specific circulating microRNAs for diagnosis, disease-monitoring and detection of relapse in GCTs as well as other childhood tumours.

Our current projects

Exploring clonal dynamics of germ cell tumours

We are undertaking comprehensive molecular profiling of germ cell tumours, to uncover their spatio-temporal relationship and phylogeny. This work will facilitate our understanding of the mechanisms of cisplatin sensitivity and resistance.

Role of the tumour microenvironment in testicular germ cell tumours

This work includes an exploration of the role of tumour-derived extracellular vesicles and their cargo on cells of the tumour microenvironment.

Novel therapeutic approaches in malignant germ cell tumours

Having investigated the effects of restoring levels of under-expressed microRNAs in malignant GCTs, highlighting the importance of the LIN28/let-7 axis (published in Cancer Research), we are now exploring the potential of replenishing other putative tumour-suppressor microRNAs, as well as investigating the consequences of targeting over-expressed microRNAs.

Improving diagnostic and disease-monitoring approaches for cancer, including germ cell tumours

Following demonstration that levels of microRNAs from the miR-371~373 and miR-302/367 clusters are elevated in the serum at malignant GCT diagnosis, may be tracked during treatment and are sensitive for relapse detection (published in American Journal of Clinical Pathology, Nature Reviews Urology and British Journal of Cancer), we now have serum microRNA outcomes embedded in prospective international clinical trials and are developing the assay for clinical use. We are also identifying serum microRNAs that can be used for risk-stratification and prognosis. We have also highlighted the potential clinical utility of circulating microRNA profiles in other solid tumours of childhood, including high-risk MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma.

Key Publications

Murray MJ, Ajithkumar TV, Harris F, Williams RM, Jalloh I, Cross J, Ronghe M, Ward D, Scarpini CG, Nicholson JC and Nicholas Coleman, on behalf of the CCLG. Clinical utility of circulating miR-371a-3p for the management of patients with intracranial malignant germ cell tumors. Neuro-Oncology Advances, In Press, 2020

Hayden J*, Murray MJ*, Bartels U, Penn A, Calaminus G, Nicholson JC. Symptom interval and treatment burden for intracranial malignant germ-cell-tumour patients. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2020 Mar;105(3):247-252. *Joint first authors.

Murray MJ, Ruffle A, Lowis S, Howell L, Whitton S, Dommett R, Gamble A, Shenton G, Nicholson JC. A Delphi method to identify expert opinion to support NICE children’s cancer referral guidelines. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2020 Mar;105(3):241-246.

Lafin JT, Singla N, Woldu S, Lotan Y, Lewis CM, Majmudar K, Zhou M, Kapur P, Margulis V, Murray MJ, Amatruda JF, Bagrodia A. Serum microRNA-371a-3p levels predict viable germ cell tumor in chemotherapy-naïve patients undergoing retroperitoneal lymph node dissection. European Urology, 2020 Feb;77(2):290-292.

Murray MJ, Coleman N. Can circulating microRNAs quantification solve clinical dilemmas in testicular germ cell malignancy? Nature Reviews Urology, Sep;16(9):505-506.




Dr Matthew Murray

Principal Investigator