Source Department of Research & Development, Amsterdam Molecular Therapeutics, Meibergdreef 61, 1105 BA Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are evolutionary conserved small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression by mediating post-transcriptional silencing of target genes. Since miRNAs are involved in fine-tuning of physiological responses, they have become of interest for diagnosis and therapy of a number of diseases. Moreover, the role of dysregulated miRNAs in maintaining the malignant phenotype has profound implications for cancer therapy. We will review the best defined cellular miRNAs and changes in their expression profile in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Cellular miRNAs can also be released into the circulation, and these miRNAs are detected in most body fluids. Circulating miRNAs are associated with HCC and are possible biomarkers. Finally, by affecting several clinically relevant targets, artificially increasing or decreasing the expression level of a given miRNA offers fascinating therapeutic perspectives. We will therefore highlight recent developments in miRNA-based gene therapy with a focus on their therapeutic potential for HCC.