microRNAs and cancer: an overview

Cell Cycle. 2008 Aug 15;7(16):2485-92. doi: 10.4161/cc.7.16.6453. Epub 2008 Aug 17.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a recently discovered class of small RNA molecules that negatively regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. MiRNAs play key roles in development and establishment of cell identity and aberrant metabolism/expression of miRNAs has been linked to human diseases including cancer. Components of the miRNA machinery and miRNAs themselves are involved in many cellular processes that are altered in cancer, such as differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis. Some miRNAs exhibit differential expression levels in cancer and have demonstrated capability to affect cellular transformation, carcinogenesis and metastasis acting either as oncogenes or tumour suppressors. We are only beginning to comprehend the functional repercussions of the gain or loss of particular microRNAs on cancer. Nonetheless, although microRNAs have been discovered in humans a mere eight years ago, a host of promising potential applications in the diagnosis, prognoses and therapy of cancer are emerging at a rapid pace.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / therapy


  • MicroRNAs