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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Micro-RNAs as diagnostic or prognostic markers in human epithelial malignancies

Angela Hui1, Christine How12, Emma Ito13 and Fei-Fei Liu1234*

Author Affiliations

1 Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI)/Campbell Family Cancer Research Institute (CFCRI); University Health Network (UHN); Toronto, ON, Canada

2 Department of Medical Biophysics; University of Toronto; Toronto, ON, Canada

3 Department of Radiation Oncology; Princess Margaret Hospital; UHN; Toronto, ON, Canada

4 Department of Radiation Oncology; University of Toronto; Toronto, ON, Canada

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:500  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-500

Published: 30 November 2011

Abstract

Micro-RNAs (miRs) are important regulators of mRNA and protein expression; the ability of miR expression profilings to distinguish different cancer types and classify their sub-types has been well-described. They also represent a novel biological entity with potential value as tumour biomarkers, which can improve diagnosis, prognosis, and monitoring of treatment response for human cancers. This endeavour has been greatly facilitated by the stability of miRs in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues, and their detection in circulation. This review will summarize some of the key dysregulated miRs described to date in human epithelial malignancies, and their potential value as molecular bio-markers in FFPE tissues and blood samples. There remain many challenges in this domain, however, with the evolution of different platforms, the complexities of normalizing miR profiling data, and the importance of evaluating sufficiently-powered training and validation cohorts. Nonetheless, well-conducted miR profiling studies should contribute important insights into the molecular aberrations driving human cancer development and progression.