The interplay between abnormalities in genes coding for proteins and noncoding microRNAs (miRNAs) has been among the most exciting yet unexpected discoveries in oncology over the last decade. The complexity of this network has redefined cancer research as miRNAs, produced from what was once considered "genomic trash," have shown to be crucial for cancer initiation, progression, and dissemination. Naturally occurring miRNAs are very short transcripts that never produce a protein or amino acid chain, but act by regulating protein expression during cellular processes such as growth, development, and differentiation at the transcriptional, posttranscriptional, and/or translational level. In this review article, miRNAs are presented as ubiquitous players involved in all cancer hallmarks. The authors also describe the most used methods to detect their expression, which have revealed the identity of hundreds of miRNAs dysregulated in cancer cells or tumor microenvironment cells. Furthermore, the role of miRNAs as hormones and as reliable cancer biomarkers and predictors of treatment response is discussed. Along with this, the authors explore current strategies in designing miRNA-targeting therapeutics, as well as the associated challenges that research envisions to overcome. Finally, a new wave in molecular oncology translational research is introduced: the study of long noncoding RNAs.
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