MicroRNAs as markers of progression in cervical cancer: a systematic review

BMC Cancer. 2018 Jun 27;18(1):696. doi: 10.1186/s12885-018-4590-4.


Background: Invasive cervical cancer (ICC) is caused by high-risk human papillomavirus types (HR-HPVs) and is usually preceded by a long phase of intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Before invasion, (epi) genetic changes, potentially applicable as molecular markers within cervical screening, occur in HPV host cells. Epigenetic alterations, such as dysregulation of microRNA (miRNA) expression, are frequently observed in ICC. The mechanisms and role of miRNA dysregulation in cervical carcinogenesis are still largely unknown.

Methods: We provide an overview of the studies investigating miRNA expression in relation to ICC progression, highlighting their common outcomes and their weaknesses/strengths. To achieve this, we systematically searched through Pubmed database all articles between January 2010 and December 2017.

Results: From the 24 studies retrieved, miR-29a and miR-21 are the most frequently down- and up-regulated in ICC progression, respectively. Microarray-based studies show a small overlap, with miR-10a, miR-20b, miR-9, miR-16 and miR-106 found repeatedly dysregulated. miR-34a, miR-125 and miR-375 were also found dysregulated in cervical exfoliated cells in relation to cancer progression.

Conclusions: The pivotal role of miRNAs in ICC progression and initial development is becoming more and more relevant. Available studies are essentially based on convenience material, entailing possible selection bias, and frequently of small size: all these points still represent a limitation to a wide comprehension of miRNAs relevant for ICC. The targeted approach instead of a genome-wide investigation still precludes the identification of all the relevant miRNAs in the process. The implementation of deep sequencing on large scale population-based studies will help to discover and validate the relation between altered miRNA expression and CC progression for the identification of biomarkers. Optimally, once explored on a miRNome scale, small specific miRNA signatures maybe used in the context of screening.

Keywords: Cancer progression; Cervical cancer; Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) lesions; HPV infection; Microarray; microRNA; qPCR.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / analysis
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / genetics
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / genetics


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs