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Critical Reviews™ in Oncogenesis

ISSN Print: 0893-9675
ISSN Online: 2162-6448

Critical Reviews™ in Oncogenesis

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevOncog.2013007182
pages 341-355

MicroRNAs: Cobblestones on the Road to Cancer Metastasis

Valentina Profumo
Department of Experimental Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milano
Paolo Gandellini
Department of Experimental Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale Tumori

ABSTRACT

Cancer metastasis is the product of a multistep process during which tumor cells, responding to different intrinsic and extrinsic stimuli, detach from the primary tumor mass, invade the contiguous stroma, migrate over a long distance, and colonize distant organs. Despite the well-established role of protein-coding genes behind such events, emerging evidence suggests how genetic and epigenetic alterations in microRNAs equally contribute to cancer metastasis. In this review, we retrace step-to-step all the most salient phases of the tumor dissemination process, by focusing on the role that specific microRNAs play from the time a cancer cell leaves the primary tumor until it acquires the ability to form secondary tumors at distant sites. We also provide a discussion of relevant conceptual and technological issues that need to be addressed before a microRNA-based therapy might be exploited in the clinical setting for the prevention and cure of the metastatic disease.