Advantages of genomic complexity: bioinformatics opportunities in microRNA cancer signatures

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Abstract

MicroRNAs, small non-coding RNAs, may act as tumor suppressors or oncogenes, and each regulate their own transcription and that of hundreds of genes, often in a tissue-dependent manner. This creates a tightly interwoven network regulating and underlying oncogenesis and cancer biology. Although protein-coding gene signatures and single protein pathway markers have proliferated over the past decade, routine adoption of the former has been hampered by interpretability, reproducibility, and dimensionality, whereas the single molecule–phenotype reductionism of the latter is often overly simplistic to account for complex phenotypes. MicroRNA-derived biomarkers offer a powerful alternative; they have both the flexibility of gene expression signature classifiers and the desirable mechanistic transparency of single protein biomarkers. Furthermore, several advances have recently demonstrated the robust detection of microRNAs from various biofluids, thus providing an additional opportunity for obtaining bioinformatically derived biomarkers to accelerate the identification of individual patients for personalized therapy.

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