Topic Highlight
Copyright ©2014 Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. May 28, 2014; 20(20): 5973-5986
Published online May 28, 2014. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i20.5973
MicroRNAs as therapeutic strategy for hepatitis B virus-associated hepatocellular carcinoma: Current status and future prospects
Yi Lin Jane Tan, Wei Ning Chen
Yi Lin Jane Tan, Wei Ning Chen, School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 637459, Singapore
Author contributions: Tan YLJ and Chen WN contributed to the conception and design, acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data; Tan YLJ drafted the article and revised it critically for important intellectual content; Chen WN gave the final approval of the version to be published.
Correspondence to: Wei Ning Chen, Professor, School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, 62 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637459, Singapore.
Telephone: +65-6-3162870 Fax: +65-6-2259865
Received: October 28, 2013
Revised: January 13, 2014
Accepted: April 8, 2014
Published online: May 28, 2014

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains to be one of the top causing cancer-related deaths today. The majority of HCC cases are reported to be the result of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Current treatments for HBV-related HCC revolve around the use of drugs to inhibit viral replication, as a high level of viral load and antigen in circulation often presents a poor patient prognosis. However, existing therapies are inefficient in the complete eradication of HBV, often resulting in tumour recurrence. The involvement of microRNAs (miRNAs) in important processes in HBV-related HCC makes it an important player in the progression of HCC in chronic hepatitis B infected patients. In this review, we discuss the key aspects of HBV infection and the important viral products that may regulate cancer-related processes via their interaction with miRNAs or their closely related protein machinery. Conversely, we also look at how miRNAs may go about regulating the virus, especially in vital processes like viral replication. Apart from miRNAs acting as either oncogenes or tumour-suppressors, we also look at how miRNAs may function as biomarkers that may possibly serve as better candidates than those currently employed in the diagnosis of HBV infection or HBV-related HCC. A summary of the roles of miRNAs in HBV-related HCC will hopefully lead to a gain in understanding of the pathogenesis process and pave the way for new insights in medical therapy.

Keywords: Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis B virus X protein, Hepatocellular carcinoma, Mechanisms, MicroRNAs, Profiling

Core tip: Hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a complex cancer of the liver stemming from the long term infection of the virus. MiRNAs are found to be involved in a multitude of events, ranging from the diagnosis, pathogenesis as well as possibly in the treatment of this cancer. This review explores the current knowledge in understanding the role of miRNAs in HBV-related HCC, and how it is able to regulate, or be regulated, such that important cellular processes may be affected.