Author(s): Sethi S
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small endogenous noncoding single-stranded RNAs. They critically regulate the post-transcriptional activity of several key physiological and pathological cell processes including cancer. Through their transcriptional regulatory functions, miRNAs control tumor proliferation, invasion and metastasis. The expression of miRNAs is altered in malignancies. It could be either upregulated or downregulated depending upon the role of a particular miRNA in the pathogenetic development of the tumor. The upregulated miRNAs exert an 'oncogenic' effect leading to tumor proliferation and metastasis. The downregulated miRNAs have 'tumor suppressor' effects. Recent studies have demonstrated that miRNAs have a role in the early diagnosis, prognosis and treatment outcome assessment of cancers. Every tumor has specific miRNA alterations, i.e. some are overexpressed and others are downregulated. These altered miRNAs can be used as a tumor-specific 'signature' for potential clinical use in improving the accuracy of diagnosis, determining prognosis and as therapeutic targets for therapy. Specific miRNAs can be targeted using oligonucleotide sequences corresponding to the altered miRNAs. These are referred to as 'antagomirs'. Depending upon the miRNA alterations in the tumor of an individual patient, one could design targeted therapies for personalized medicine in patients. Hence, miRNAs have an immense role in personalized cancer therapy.