Challenges in using circulating miRNAs as cancer biomarkers

Paola Tiberio, Maurizio Callari, Valentina Angeloni, Maria Grazia Daidone, Valentina Appierto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the last years, circulating miRNAs have emerged as a new class of promising cancer biomarkers. Independent studies have shown the feasibility of using these small RNAs as tools for the diagnosis and prognosis of different types of malignancies as well as for predicting and possibly monitoring treatment response. However, despite an initial enthusiasm for their possible clinical application, widespread inconsistencies have been observed among the studies, and miRNA-based tools still represent the object of research within clinical diagnostic or treatment protocols. The poor overlap of results could be explained, at least in part, by preanalytical and analytical variables and donor-related factors that could generate artefacts, impairing an accurate quantification of circulating miRNAs. In fact, critical issues are represented by nonuniform sample choice, handling, and processing, as well as by blood cell contamination in sample preparation and lack of consensus for data normalization. In this review, we address the potential technical biases and individual-related parameters that can influence circulating miRNA studies' outcome. The exciting potential of circulating miRNAs as cancer biomarkers could confer an important advance in the disease management, but their clinical significance might not be proven without a global consensus of procedures and standardized protocols for their accurate detection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number731479
JournalBioMed Research International
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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