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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Serum microRNAs as non-invasive biomarkers for cancer

Jan C Brase*, Daniela Wuttig, Ruprecht Kuner and Holger Sültmann

Author Affiliations

Working Group Cancer Genome Research, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany

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Molecular Cancer 2010, 9:306  doi:10.1186/1476-4598-9-306

Published: 26 November 2010

Abstract

Human serum and other body fluids are rich resources for the identification of novel biomarkers, which can be measured in routine clinical diagnosis. microRNAs are small non-coding RNA molecules, which have an important function in regulating RNA stability and gene expression. The deregulation of microRNAs has been linked to cancer development and tumor progression. Recently, it has been reported that serum and other body fluids contain sufficiently stable microRNA signatures. Thus, the profiles of circulating microRNAs have been explored in a variety of studies aiming at the identification of novel non-invasive biomarkers.

In this review, we discuss recent findings indicating that circulating microRNAs are useful as non-invasive biomarkers for different tumor types. Additionally, we summarize the knowledge about the mechanism of microRNA release and the putative functional roles of circulating microRNAs. Although several challenges remain to be addressed, circulating microRNAs have the potential to be useful for the diagnosis and prognosis of cancer diseases.