The National Cancer Institute Early Detection Research Network: 5th Scientific Workshop – Biomarkers-at-a-Crossroads
An exciting emerging field in cancer research and diagnosis is based on the concept of stem/progenitor cells as being the primary targets of neoplastic transformation – ‘tumor stem cells’(TSC). It is believed that similar to normal tissue organization, tumor progression is driven by the TSC component. Presumably, that initial deregulation of stem cell growth and proliferation leads to a significant expansion of this progenitor cell population, which may harbour certain mutations that promote the acquisition of further oncogenic events and transformation. Hence, this new TSC concept and stem cell population expansion early on during neoplasia may be applied to the development of new methods for cancer risk assessment, early detection, prediction of disease progression and response to therapy. MicroRNAs are small, non-coding functional RNAs, which play an intricate role in the regulation of translation of many genes, most notably oncogenes, by binding to the 3’-UTR of corresponding mRNA transcripts. Distinct microRNA expression patterns have been identified in association with a variety of cancers, including pancreatic, colon and lung. Hence the deregulation of expression of specific microRNAs could be utilized for the development of biomarkers for early detection, risk assessment, diagnosis and prediction of disease progression, as well as targets for cancer therapy.