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Front Genet. 2014 Jan 3;4:295. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2013.00295.

The role of microRNAs in the regulation of cancer stem cells.

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Division of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, National Cancer Center Research Institute Tokyo, Japan.
Division of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, National Cancer Center Research Institute Tokyo, Japan ; Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Showa University School of Dentistry Tokyo, Japan.


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been reported in many human tumors and are proposed to drive tumor initiation and progression. CSCs share a variety of biological properties with normal somatic stem cells such as the capacity for self-renewal, the propagation of differentiated progeny, and the expression of specific cell surface markers and stem cell genes. However, CSCs differ from normal stem cells in their chemoresistance and tumorigenic and metastatic activities. Despite their potential clinical importance, the regulation of CSCs at the molecular level is not well-understood. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of endogenous non-coding RNAs that play an important role in the regulation of several cellular, physiological, and developmental processes. Aberrant miRNA expression is associated with many human diseases including cancer. miRNAs have been implicated in the regulation of CSC properties; therefore, a better understanding of the modulation of CSC gene expression by miRNAs could aid the identification of promising biomarkers and therapeutic targets. In the present review, we summarize the major findings on the regulation of CSCs by miRNAs and discuss recent advances that have improved our understanding of the regulation of CSCs by miRNA networks and may lead to the development of miRNA therapeutics specifically targeting CSCs.


cancer stem cells (CSCs); metastasis; microRNA; therapy resistance; tumor initiation

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