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J Thorac Oncol. 2009 Aug;4(8):1028-34. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e3181a99c77.

MicroRNAs in the pathogenesis of Lung Cancer.

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  • 1The Ohio State University Medical Center, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States. It is estimated that in 2008 there were 215,000 new diagnoses of lung cancer and 163,000 deaths. Despite emerging technologies for potential early diagnosis and discovery of novel targeted therapies, the overall 5-year survival remains a disappointing 15%. Explanations for the poor survival include late presentation of disease, a lack of markers for early detection, and both phenotypic and genotypic heterogeneity within patients of similar histologic classification. To further understand this heterogeneity and thus complexity of lung cancer, investigators have applied various technologies including high throughput analysis of both the genome and proteome. Such approaches have been successful in identifying signatures that may clarify molecular differences in tumors, identify new targets, and improve prognostication. In the last decade, investigators have identified a new mode of gene regulation in the form of noncoding RNAs termed microRNAs (miRNAs or miRs). First determined to be of importance in larval development, microRNAs are approximately 19-22 nucleotide single stranded RNAs that regulate genes by either inducing mRNA degradation or inhibiting translation. MiRNAs have been implicated in several cellular processes including apoptosis, development, proliferation, and differentiation. By regulating hundreds of genes simultaneously, miRNAs have the capacity for regulation of biologic networks. Global alterations in miRNA expression in both solid organ and hematological malignancies suggest their importance in the pathogenesis of disease. To date, both in vivo and in vitro studies in lung cancer demonstrate a dysregulation of miRNA expression. Furthermore, investigators are beginning to identify individual targets and pathways of miRNAs relevant to lung tumorigenesis. Thus, miRNAs may identify critical targets and be important in the pathogenesis of lung cancer.

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