microRNA regulation of human pancreatic cancer stem cells

Yi-Fan Xu, Bethany N. Hannafon, Wei-Qun Ding


microRNAs (miRNAs) are a group of small non-coding RNAs that function primarily in the post transcriptional regulation of gene expression in plants and animals. Deregulation of miRNA expression in cancer cells, including pancreatic cancer cells, is well documented, and the involvement of miRNAs in orchestrating tumor genesis and cancer progression has been recognized. This review focuses on recent reports demonstrating that miRNAs are involved in regulation of pancreatic cancer stem cells (CSCs). A number of miRNA species have been identified to be involved in regulating pancreatic CSCs, including miR-21, miR-34, miR-1246, miR-221, the miR-17-92 cluster, the miR-200 and let-7 families. Furthermore, the Notch-signaling pathway and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process are associated with miRNA regulation of pancreatic CSCs. Given the significant contribution of CSCs to chemo-resistance and tumor progression, a better understanding of how miRNAs function in pancreatic CSCs could provide novel strategies for the development of therapeutics and diagnostics for this devastating disease.