Dipartimento di Morfologia, Chirurgia e Medicina Sperimentale, Università di Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most deadly tumors, and current treatments for the disease are often ineffective. The discovery of the involvement of microRNAs (miRNAs) in hepatocarcinogenesis represents an important area of investigation for the development of their clinical applications. These molecules may act as oncogenes or tumor suppressors by directly or indirectly controlling the expression of key proteins involved in cancer-associated pathways. On the clinical side, because of their tumor-specific expression and stability in tissues and in the circulation, miRNAs have been proposed as novel diagnostic tools for classification and prognostic stratification of HCC. In recent years, the therapeutic potential of miRNAs has been demonstrated in various preclinical studies. Anti-miRNA oligonucleotides and miRNA mimics have been found to have antitumor activity. Moreover, by exploiting tumor-specific expression of miRNA, efforts have been aimed at improving targeting of tumor cells by replicative oncolytic viruses while sparing normal cells. These areas are expected to be explored further in the upcoming years to assess the clinical value of miRNA-based approaches in HCC and cancer in general.