Published online May 28, 2014. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i20.5973
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.
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.