As modulators of gene expression, microRNAs (miRNAs) are essential for normal development. Not surprisingly, aberrant expression of miRNAs is associated with many diseases, including cancer. Studies of various breast cancer subtypes have demonstrated that, like gene expression profiles and pathological differences, miRNA profiles can distinguish various tumor subtypes. Over the last few years, roles for miRNAs during many stages of breast cancer progression have been established. This includes potential breast cancer associated polymorphisms in miRNA target sites or miRNAs themselves, miRNAs that can act as tumor suppressors or oncogenes, and miRNAs that can modulate metastatic spread. Recent studies have also suggested key roles for miRNAs in regulating cancer stem cells. Thus, miRNAs have now become important therapeutic targets. This can be achieved by replacing miRNA expression where it has been lost or decreased, or conversely by inhibiting miRNA expression where it has been amplified or overexpressed in cancers. Ultimately, miRNAs should provide both important prognostic biomarkers as well as new targetable molecules for the treatment of breast cancer.
Breast cancer, miRNA, novel therapeutics, stem cells
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.