Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, accounting for over 1.37 million deaths annually. The clinical outcome and management of lung cancer patients could be substantially improved by the implementation of non-invasive biomarker assays for the early detection, prognosis as well as prediction and monitoring of treatment response. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been implicated in the regulation of virtually all signaling circuits within a cell and their dysregulation has been shown to play an essential role in the development and progression of cancer. Recently, miRNAs were found to be released into the circulation and to exist there in a remarkably stable form. Furthermore, various cancers were shown to leave specific miRNA fingerprints in the blood of patients suggesting that cell-free miRNAs could serve as non-invasive biomarkers for the detection or monitoring of cancer and putative therapeutic targets. Since that, a considerable effort has been devoted to decode the information carried by circulating miRNAs. In the current review, we give an insight into the mechanisms of miRNA release into the bloodstream, their putative functional significance and systematically review the studies focused on the identification of cell-free miRNAs with the diagnostic, prognostic, and predictive significance in lung cancer and discuss their potential clinical utility.
Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.