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Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2011 Jun 7;8(8):467-77. doi: 10.1038/nrclinonc.2011.76.

MicroRNAs in body fluids--the mix of hormones and biomarkers.

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The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Since the discovery of microRNAs (miRNAs), the study of these small noncoding RNAs has steadily increased and more than 10,000 papers have already been published. The great interest in miRNAs reflects their central role in gene-expression regulation and the implication of miRNA-specific aberrant expression in the pathogenesis of cancer, cardiac, immune-related and other diseases. Another avenue of current research is the study of circulating miRNAs in serum, plasma, and other body fluids--miRNAs may act not only within cells, but also at other sites within the body. The presence of miRNAs in body fluids may represent a gold mine of noninvasive biomarkers in cancer. Since deregulated miRNA expression is an early event in tumorigenesis, measuring circulating miRNA levels may also be useful for early cancer detection, which can contribute greatly to the success of treatment. In this Review, we discuss the role of fluid-expressed miRNAs as reliable cancer biomarkers and treatment-response predictors as well as potential new patient selection criteria for clinical trials. In addition, we explore the concept that miRNAs could function as hormones.

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