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J Pathol. 2011 Aug;224(4):438-47. doi: 10.1002/path.2922. Epub 2011 Jun 27.

MicroRNAs in colorectal cancer metastasis.

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Department of Pathology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands.


Metastatic disease is the major cause of death in colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. The metastatic process is highly inefficient and comprises multiple sequential steps. While many genetic factors relevant in this process have already been identified, the epigenetic factors underlying each step still remain obscure. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are key regulators in tumourigenesis, but their role in the development of cancer metastasis is poorly investigated. The majority of miRNAs involved in the metastatic process have been identified in breast cancer cell lines, and in CRC less data are available. We review the role of miRNAs in the metastatic pathway of CRC, including escape of apoptosis, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), angiogenesis, and invasion. Better understanding of the complex role of miRNAs in the development of CRC metastases may provide new insights that could be of therapeutic consequence.

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