Regulation of microRNAs by natural agents: an emerging field in chemoprevention and chemotherapy research

Pharm Res. 2010 Jun;27(6):1027-41. doi: 10.1007/s11095-010-0105-y. Epub 2010 Mar 20.


In recent years, microRNAs have received greater attention in cancer research. These small, non-coding RNAs could inhibit target gene expression by binding to the 3' untranslated region of target mRNA, resulting in either mRNA degradation or inhibition of translation. miRNAs play important roles in many normal biological processes; however, studies have also shown that aberrant miRNA expression is correlated with the development and progression of cancers. The miRNAs could have oncogenic or tumor suppressor activities. Moreover, some miRNAs could regulate formation of cancer stem cells and epithelial-mesenchymal transition phenotype of cancer cells which are typically drug resistant. Furthermore, miRNAs could be used as biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis, and thus miRNAs are becoming emerging targets for cancer therapy. Recent studies have shown that natural agents including curcumin, isoflavone, indole-3-carbinol, 3,3'-diindolylmethane, (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate, resveratrol, etc. could alter miRNA expression profiles, leading to the inhibition of cancer cell growth, induction of apoptosis, reversal of epithelial-mesenchymal transition, or enhancement of efficacy of conventional cancer therapeutics. These emerging results clearly suggest that specific targeting of miRNAs by natural agents could open newer avenues for complete eradication of tumors by killing the drug-resistant cells to improve survival outcome in patients diagnosed with malignancies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biological Products / pharmacology*
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Chemoprevention
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biological Products
  • MicroRNAs