As many as 50 percent of all human protein-coding genes are regulated by microRNA (miRNA) molecules. While some miRNAs impact onset and progression of cancer, others can actually suppress the development of malignant tumors and are useful in cancer therapy. They can also serve as potential biomarkers for early cancer detection. In a new issue of Cancer Biomarkers, investigators report on non-coding miRNAs as appealing biomarkers for malignancy.
"MiRNA-based therapies are attractive partly due to the fact that these molecules can target multiple genes in different signaling pathways simultaneously," says guest editor Pier Jr Morin, PhD, MBA, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Université de Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. "In addition to their therapeutic potential, miRNAs are released into the circulation, and measurement of such species in plasma and serum samples highlights the possibility of leveraging these molecules as potential biomarkers for early cancer detection, prognostic assessment, and evaluation of therapeutic response in cancer patients."
Six articles follow Dr. Morin's editorial, each discussing the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of miRNAs across a variety of cancer malignancies.
In "The Value of MiRNA in Diagnosing Thyroid Cancer: A Systematic Review," L. Lodewijk and colleagues address the diagnostic potential of miRNAs in thyroid cancer.
Niamh M. Hogan, Myles R. Joyce, and Michael J. Kerin discuss the need to identify new biomarkers to detect colorectal cancer in its early stages. It has been shown that five-year patient survival increases from 10 percent at stage IV detection to more than 90 percent at an early stage, an important finding for this fourth most common cause of death from cancer. Investigators outline the advantages of current methods of colorectal cancer detection, identify challenges, and assess miRNA diagnostic potential. The stability of miRNAs and their presence in body fluids can be useful for the development of non-invasive malignancy detection methods.
"MicroRNAs hold enormous potential to revolutionize diagnostics and screening in colorectal cancer," says lead investigator Professor Michael J. Kerin, MCh, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, National University of Ireland. "Not only have they been shown to be differentially expressed in colorectal cancer, microRNAs may also be capable of providing crucial information regarding response to therapy and core tumor characteristics."