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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

MicroRNAs in rhabdomyosarcoma: pathogenetic implications and translational potentiality

Rossella Rota1*, Roberta Ciarapica1, Antonio Giordano23, Lucio Miele4 and Franco Locatelli15

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oncohematology, Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, IRCCS, Roma, Italy

2 Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine and Center of Biotechnology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

3 Department of Human Pathology and Oncology, Università di Siena, Siena, Italy

4 Cancer Institute, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS, USA

5 Dipartimento di Scienze Pediatriche, Università di Pavia, Pavia, Italy

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Molecular Cancer 2011, 10:120  doi:10.1186/1476-4598-10-120

Published: 24 September 2011

Abstract

There is growing evidence that interconnections among molecular pathways governing tissue differentiation are nodal points for malignant transformation. In this scenario, microRNAs appear as crucial players. This class of non-coding small regulatory RNA molecules controls developmental programs by modulating gene expression through post-transcriptional silencing of target mRNAs. During myogenesis, muscle-specific and ubiquitously-expressed microRNAs tightly control muscle tissue differentiation. In recent years, microRNAs have emerged as prominent players in cancer as well. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a pediatric skeletal muscle-derived soft-tissue sarcoma that originates from myogenic precursors arrested at different stages of differentiation and that continue to proliferate indefinitely. MicroRNAs involved in muscle cell fate determination appear down-regulated in rhabdomyosarcoma primary tumors and cell lines compared to their normal counterparts. More importantly, they behave as tumor suppressors in this malignancy, as their re-expression is sufficient to restore the differentiation capability of tumor cells and to prevent tumor growth in vivo. In addition, up-regulation of pro-oncogenic microRNAs has also been recently detected in rhabdomyosarcoma.

In this review, we provide an overview of current knowledge on microRNAs de-regulation in rhabdomyosarcoma. Additionally, we examine the potential of microRNAs as prognostic and diagnostic markers in this soft-tissue sarcoma, and discuss possible therapeutic applications and challenges of a "microRNA therapy".