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Int J Oral Sci. Oct 2011; 3(4): 165–175.
PMCID: PMC3469973

microRNAs, an active and versatile group in cancers

Abstract

microRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of non-coding RNAs that function as endogenous triggers of the RNA interference pathway. Studies have shown that thousands of human protein-coding genes are regulated by miRNAs, indicating that miRNAs are master regulators of many important biological processes, such as cancer development. miRNAs frequently have deregulated expression in many types of human cancers, and play critical roles in tumorigenesis, which functions either as tumor suppressors or as oncogenes. Recent studies have shown that miRNAs are highly related with cancer progression, including initiating, growth, apoptosis, invasion, and metastasis. Furthermore, miRNAs are shown to be responsible for the cancer-related inflammation, anti-cancer drug resistance, and regulation of cancer stem cells. Therefore, miRNAs have generated great interest as a novel strategy in cancer diagnosis and therapy. Here we review the versatile roles of miRNAs in cancers and their potential applications for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment as biomarkers.

Keywords: microRNAs, cancer, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, inflammation, cancer stem cells, drug resistance

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