MicroRNAs present exciting opportunities for cancer therapy and diagnosis

December 19, 2012

As many as 50 percent of all human protein-coding genes are regulated by microRNA (miRNA) molecules. While some miRNAs impact onset and progression of cancer, others can actually suppress the development of malignant tumors and are useful in cancer therapy. They can also serve as potential biomarkers for early cancer detection. In a new issue of Cancer Biomarkers, investigators report on non-coding miRNAs as appealing biomarkers for malignancy.

"MiRNA-based therapies are attractive partly due to the fact that these molecules can target multiple genes in different signaling pathways simultaneously," says guest editor Pier Jr Morin, PhD, MBA, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Université de Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. "In addition to their therapeutic potential, miRNAs are released into the circulation, and measurement of such species in plasma and serum samples highlights the possibility of leveraging these molecules as potential biomarkers for early cancer detection, prognostic assessment, and evaluation of therapeutic response in ."

Six articles follow Dr. Morin's editorial, each discussing the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of miRNAs across a variety of cancer malignancies.

In "The Value of MiRNA in Diagnosing Thyroid Cancer: A Systematic Review," L. Lodewijk and colleagues address the diagnostic potential of miRNAs in .

Niamh M. Hogan, Myles R. Joyce, and Michael J. Kerin discuss the need to identify new biomarkers to detect colorectal cancer in its early stages. It has been shown that five-year patient survival increases from 10 percent at stage IV detection to more than 90 percent at an early stage, an important finding for this fourth most common cause of death from cancer. Investigators outline the advantages of current methods of colorectal , identify challenges, and assess miRNA diagnostic potential. The stability of miRNAs and their presence in can be useful for the development of non-invasive detection methods.

"MicroRNAs hold enormous potential to revolutionize diagnostics and screening in colorectal cancer," says lead investigator Professor Michael J. Kerin, MCh, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, National University of Ireland. "Not only have they been shown to be differentially expressed in colorectal cancer, microRNAs may also be capable of providing crucial information regarding response to therapy and core tumor characteristics."

In further articles, André Odjélé, Dhany Charest, and Pier Jr Morin review the progress made in recent years in identifying miRNAs that could assist in diagnosing aggressive brain tumors in "MiRNAs as Important Drivers of Glioblastomas: A No-brainer?" The role of miRNAs in non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) and recommendations for improving NMSC-related miRNA research are the subjects of a review article by Michael Sand, Daniel Sand, Peter Altmeyer and Falk G. Bechara. Fang Wang, Guo-Ping Sun, Yan-Feng Zou, Ji-Qing Hao, Fei Zhong, and Wen-Jun Ren address miRNAs and their diagnostic and prognostic potential in gastric cancer. Wrapping up the issue, Jason Harquail, Sami Benzina, and Gilles A. Robichaud examine miRNAs in a focus on breast cancer, providing a detailed account of tissue dynamics related to tumor metastasis.

"Clearly, the discovery of miRNAs has led to exciting opportunities for and diagnosis. Their regulation of key molecules and signaling pathways involved in cancer-related processes as well as their stability in body fluids further reinforce their attractiveness as therapeutic targets and biomarkers in cancer," Dr. Morin concludes. "While several hurdles, including efficient delivery and potential off-target effects, remain to be surpassed before miRNA-based therapies reach the clinic, recent advances in the field warrant a closer look at the potential roles that these molecules could play in cancer."

Explore further: Researchers identify key role of microRNAs in melanoma metastasis

More information: MiRNAs in Cancer: Non-coding RNAs as Appealing Biomarkers for Malignancy, Guest Editor: Pier Jr Morin, Cancer Biomarkers, Volume 11, Issue 6 (December 2012). iospress.metapress.com/content … 34c1e973d9f450f&pi=0

Related Stories

Researchers identify key role of microRNAs in melanoma metastasis

July 11, 2011
Researchers at the NYU Cancer Institute, an NCI-designated cancer center at NYU Langone Medical Center, identified for the first time the key role specific microRNAs (miRNAs) play in melanoma metastasis to simultaneously ...

Recommended for you

Researchers release first draft of a genome-wide cancer 'dependency map'

July 27, 2017
In one of the largest efforts to build a comprehensive catalog of genetic vulnerabilities in cancer, researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have identified more than 760 genes ...

Cancer-death button gets jammed by gut bacterium

July 27, 2017
Researchers at Michigan Medicine and in China showed that a type of bacterium is associated with the recurrence of colorectal cancer and poor outcomes. They found that Fusobacterium nucleatum in the gut can stop chemotherapy ...

Long-sought mechanism of metastasis is discovered in pancreatic cancer

July 27, 2017
Cells, just like people, have memories. They retain molecular markers that at the beginning of their existence helped guide their development. Cells that become cancerous may be making use of these early memories to power ...

Blocking the back-door that cancer cells use to escape death by radiotherapy

July 27, 2017
A natural healing mechanism of the body may be reducing the efficiency of radiotherapy in breast cancer patients, according to a new study.

Manmade peptides reduce breast cancer's spread

July 27, 2017
Manmade peptides that directly disrupt the inner workings of a gene known to support cancer's spread significantly reduce metastasis in a mouse model of breast cancer, scientists say.

Glowing tumor technology helps surgeons remove hidden cancer cells

July 27, 2017
Surgeons were able to identify and remove a greater number of cancerous nodules from lung cancer patients when combining intraoperative molecular imaging (IMI) - through the use of a contrast agent that makes tumor cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.