Alessandro Lagana, PhD
Since they were discovered nearly 30 years ago, microRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as novel targets for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. These small, endogenous, noncoding functional RNAs were notably described in studies of a mutant Caenorhabditis elegans
worm in 1993.1
The initial report of miRNA dysregulation contributing to B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia was published in 2002.2
Subsequent research findings have shown that miRNAs control the expression of target messenger RNAs (mRNAs) to perform such functions as regulating tumor cell growth, invasion, angiogenesis, and adaptation to the tumor microenvironment.3,4
The dysregulation of miRNA in cancer has increased interest in identifying miRNA signatures to predict prognosis, evaluate drug efficacy, identify embryonic/developmental origin, and resensitize drug-resistant tumors. Several preclinical studies have also investigated methods of targeting miRNA dysregulation, although more research is needed to optimize outcomes in the clinical setting.
Figure. Mechanisms of MicroRNA Expression9
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