MicroRNAs: Cobblestones on the road to cancer metastasis

Valentina Profumo, Paolo Gandellini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-355
Number of pages15
JournalCritical Reviews in Oncogenesis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • ECM
  • EMT
  • Invasion
  • Metastasis
  • Microenvironment
  • Migration
  • miRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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