Review Article Theme: siRNA and microRNA: From Target Validation to Therapy

The AAPS Journal

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 682-692

First online:

MicroRNA Regulation of Cancer Stem Cells and Therapeutic Implications

  • Jeffrey T. DeSanoAffiliated withDepartment of Radiation Oncology, Division of Cancer Biology, University of Michigan
  • , Liang XuAffiliated withDepartment of Radiation Oncology, Division of Cancer Biology, University of MichiganComprehensive Cancer Center, University of Michigan Email author 


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of endogenous non-protein-coding RNAs that function as important regulatory molecules by negatively regulating gene and protein expression via the RNA interference (RNAi) machinery. MiRNAs have been implicated to control a variety of cellular, physiological, and developmental processes. Aberrant expressions of miRNAs are connected to human diseases such as cancer. Cancer stem cells are a small subpopulation of cells identified in a variety of tumors that are capable of self-renewal and differentiation. Dysregulation of stem cell self-renewal is a likely requirement for the initiation and formation of cancer. Furthermore, cancer stem cells are a very likely cause of resistance to current cancer treatments, as well as relapse in cancer patients. Understanding the biology and pathways involved with cancer stem cells offers great promise for developing better cancer therapies, and might one day even provide a cure for cancer. Emerging evidence demonstrates that miRNAs are involved in cancer stem cell dysregulation. Recent studies also suggest that miRNAs play a critical role in carcinogenesis and oncogenesis by regulating cell proliferation and apoptosis as oncogenes or tumor suppressors, respectively. Therefore, molecularly targeted miRNA therapy could be a powerful tool to correct the cancer stem cell dysregulation.

Key words

cancer stem cells microRNAs oncogenes tumor suppressors