• Bao B, Ali S, Ahmad A, Li Y, Banerjee S, Kong D, Aboukameel A, Mohammad R, Va Bu, Azmi A. (2014) Differentially expressed miRNAs in cancer stem like cells: Markers for tumor cell aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer. Stem Cells and Development 23(16):1947-58.

Pancreatic cancer (PC) is one of the most deadly cancers. The higher mortality is in part due to treatment resistance and early onset of metastasis. The existence of cancer stem like cells (CSLCs) has been widely accepted to be responsible for tumor aggressiveness in PC. Emerging evidence suggests that CSLCs have the capacity for increased cell growth, cell migration/invasion, metastasis, and treatment resistance, which leads to poor clinical outcome. However, the molecular role of CSLCs in tumor development and progression is poorly understood. Therefore, mechanistic understanding, and targeted killing of CSLCs may provide a newer therapeutic strategy for the treatment of PC. It has been well accepted that microRNAs (miRNAs) play critical roles during tumor development and progression through deregulation of multiple genes. Moreover, deregulated expression of miRNAs may also play a key role in the regulation of CSLCs characteristics and functions. Here we show that isolated CD44+/CD133+/EpCAM+ cells (triple-positive cells) from human PC cell lines, MiaPaCa-2 and L3.6pl cells display aggressive characteristics such as increased cell growth, clonogenicity, cell migration, and self-renewal capacity, which is consistent with over-expression of CSLC signatures/markers. We also found deregulated expression of over 400 miRNAs including let-7, miR-30, miR-125b, and miR-335 in CSLCs. As a proof-of-concept, knockdown of miR-125b resulted in the inhibition of tumor cell aggressiveness of CSLCs (triple-positive cells), consistent with the down-regulation of CD44, EpCAM, EZH2, and snail. These results clearly suggest the importance of miRNAs in the regulation of CSLCs characteristics, and may serve as novel targets for therapy.

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