OncomiR-17-5p: alarm signal in cancer?

Madhusudhan Reddy Bobbili, Robert M. Mader, Johannes Grillari _ and Hanna Dellago

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:71206-71222. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.19331

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Madhusudhan Reddy Bobbili1, Robert M. Mader3, Johannes Grillari1,2,4 and Hanna Dellago2,5

1Department of Biotechnology, BOKU–University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

2Christian Doppler Laboratory on Biotechnology of Skin Aging, Department of Biotechnology, BOKU–University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

3Department of Medicine I, Comprehensive Cancer Center of the Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

4Evercyte GmbH, Vienna, Austria

5TAmiRNA GmbH, Vienna, Austria

Correspondence to:

Johannes Grillari, email: [email protected]

Keywords: miRNA, miR-17-5p, biomarker, cancer

Received: March 23, 2017     Accepted: June 28, 2017     Published: July 18, 2017


Soon after microRNAs entered the stage as novel regulators of gene expression, they were found to regulate -and to be regulated by- the development, progression and aggressiveness of virtually all human types of cancer. Therefore, miRNAs in general harbor a huge potential as diagnostic and prognostic markers as well as potential therapeutic targets in cancer.

The miR-17-92 cluster was found to be overexpressed in many human cancers and to promote unrestrained cell growth, and has therefore been termed onco-miR-1. In addition, its expression is often dysregulated in many other diseases. MiR-17-5p, its most prominent member, is an essential regulator of fundamental cellular processes like proliferation, autophagy and apoptosis, and its deficiency is neonatally lethal in the mouse. Many cancer types are associated with elevated miR-17-5p expression, and the degree of overexpression might correlate with cancer aggressiveness and responsiveness to chemotherapeutics – suggesting miR-17-5p to be an alarm signal. Liver, gastric or colorectal cancers are examples where miR-17-5p has been observed exclusively as an oncogene, while, in other cancer types, like breast, prostate and lung cancer, the role of miR-17-5p is not as clear-cut, and it might also act as tumor-suppressor.

However, in all cancer types studied so far, miR-17-5p has been found at elevated levels in the circulation. In this review, we therefore recapitulate the current state of knowledge about miR-17-5p in the context of cancer, and suggest that elevated miR-17-5p levels in the plasma might be a sensitive and early alarm signal for cancer (‘alarmiR’), albeit not a specific alarm for a specific type of tumor.

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