Educational Series

Clinical and Translational Oncology

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 357-362

microRNAs as novel epigenetic biomarkers for human cancer

  • María Cortés-SempereAffiliated withInstituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas CSIC/UAM, IdiPAZ
  • , Inmaculada Ibáñez de CáceresAffiliated withBiomarkers and Experimental Therapeutics Group IdiPAZ, FIB, University Hospital La Paz Email author 

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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are regulatory, non-coding RNAs that are approximately 22 nucleotides in length. Nearly 1000 unique miRNAs encoded in the human genome have been identified, shedding new light on the posttranscriptional regulation of more than one-third of human genes. These miRNAs are involved in numerous biological processes, including development, differentiation, apoptosis, homeostasis and stem cell biology. Aberrant miRNA expression patterns also play a substantial role in carcinogenesis. It is believed that genetic and epigenetic regulation is responsible for changes in miRNA expression in cancer development, however the exact mechanisms remain unclear. miRNAs are involved in almost all aspects of cancer biology such as apoptosis, invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis. Thanks to this wide range of biological functions, the analysis of changes in overall miRNA expression occurring within human tumours has helped identify miRNA signatures associated with diagnosis, staging, progression, prognosis and response to treatment. This positions miRNA-targeting therapeutics as a novel and promising tool for cancer treatment.


MicroRNA expression profile Epigenetics Tumour suppressor genes