MiRNAs are a class of short, endogenous, single-stranded RNA molecules that play a role in the regulation of gene expression. They have been shown to modulate a number of cellular processes including cell differentiation, growth and apoptosis and as a result have been implicated in carcinogenesis. They are detectable in tumour tissue, and altered expression levels have been identified in various cancer types. Of interest, miRNAs have recently been detected and identified to be dysregulated in the circulation of patients with breast cancer. The fact that a minimally invasive test can distinguish the presence or absence of disease illustrates the immense potential these molecules hold as predictive markers. This review serves to identify those systemic miRNAs that are upregulated or downregulated in malignancy and how treatment impacts on their circulating levels. In addition, this review questions the source of these small molecules in the bloodstream and how they may possibly play a role in the future detection of cancer as either prognostic or predictive markers.
Copyright © 2012 UICC.