Increasing evidence supports the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in the progression of cervical cancer. A recent study, published in Nature, used an integrated bioinformatics approach to identify key miRNAs linked to poor prognosis.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide and is most prevalent in low-resource countries. Despite advances in modern medicine, relapse is common and the mechanisms which impact cancer prognosis are still widely unknown. Therefore, there are strong efforts underway to identify biomarkers linked to poor prognosis. These could allow predictions of patient prognosis, and the consequent advancement or intensification of treatments.
A microRNA (miRNA) is a small molecular RNA which can regulate the expression of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes at the post-transcriptional level. Therefore, they have significant control over the progression of cancer. Various miRNAs have been identified as potential biomarkers for cancer development and as targets for cancer treatment.
The Cancer Genome Atlas Project (TCGA) has produced one of the most comprehensive and large-scale gene sequencing data sets worldwide. This study collected miRNA and clinical data from the TCGA database in order to identify potential miRNAs linked to cancer survival. They then validated their findings through in vitro experiments.
Using an integrated bioinformatics approach, the researchers identified three miRNAs linked to the prognosis of cervical cancer. These miRNAs had also previously been implicated in other types of cancer, as well as cases of cervical cancer. Combined, these findings support that these miRNAs are clinically important cancer biomarkers and their inhibition may improve patient outcomes.
To further understand their molecular function, the researchers identified the target genes of the miRNAs using bioinformatics technology. Interestingly, the immune system appeared to play a major role in this process. While the immune system has been implicated in many types of cancer and immunotherapy has recently been clinically validated as a cancer therapy, there has been limited support for the efficacy of immunotherapy in cervical cancer. The results of this study may provide novel targets for therapies of cervical cancer, and could be combined with current immunotherapies.
The paper identified three novel miRNA candidates for biomarkers to predict poor cervical cancer prognosis. Their findings indicate a key role of the immune system in this complex miRNA-gene network. The additional use of in-vitro experimental studies provides more robust proof of the roles of these miRNAs in tumour progression.