Doublecortin-like kinase 1 (DCLK1) is a gastrointestinal (GI) tuft cell kinase that has been investigated as a biomarker of cancer stem-like cells in colon and pancreatic cancers. However, its utility as a biomarker may be limited in principle by signal instability and dilution in heterogeneous tumors, where the proliferation of diverse tumor cell lineages obscures the direct measurement of DCLK1 activity. To address this issue, we explored the definition of a miRNA signature as a surrogate biomarker for DCLK1 in cancer stem-like cells. Utilizing RNA/ miRNA-sequencing datasets from the Cancer Genome Atlas, we identified a surrogate 15-miRNA expression signature for DCLK1 activity across several GI cancers, including colon, pancreatic, and stomach cancers. Notably, Cox regression and Kaplan-Meier analysis demonstrated that this signature could predict the survival of patients with these cancers. Moreover, we identified patient subgroups that predicted the clinical utility of this DCLK1 surrogate biomarker. Our findings greatly strengthen the clinical significance for DCLK1 expression across GI cancers. Further, they provide an initial guidepost toward the development of improved prognostic biomarkers or companion biomarkers for DCLK1-targeted therapies to eradicate cancer stem-like cells in these malignancies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research