Researchers found that several deregulated competing endogenous RNA (ceRNA) networks play a significant role in the development of thyroid cancer features, as published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

Among endocrine cancers, thyroid cancer is the most prevalent, accounting for 3.4% of all malignancies diagnosed every year. Medullary thyroid carcinoma is a rare subtype of thyroid cancer. Advancements in genome sequencing have allowed medical researchers to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind thyroid cancer pathogenicity. 

“CeRNAs are emerging factors that could play an important role in cancer tumorigenicity,” the researchers wrote. This is based on the theory that signaling pathways play a central role in many biological activities.

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“Abundant evidence indicates that ceRNA networks are engaged in a variety of signaling pathways in human cancers,” they then wrote on the possible role of ceRNAs in cancer pathogenesis.

Liu et al detailed a number of ways in which ceRNA networks play a role in causing thyroid cancer. For example, scientists believe that the ceRNA networks deregulate epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Normally, the EMT process causes epithelial cells to become more mobile and invasive by acquiring stem cell-like properties and losing cell-cell adhesion and polarity. 

Read more about medullary thyroid carcinoma etiology 

In addition, ceRNA networks are believed to be involved in the drug resistance of thyroid cancer. Drug resistance is a problem across different pathologies, but in patients with cancer, it can significantly reduce survival and quality of life.

“The considerable role of non-coding RNAs, as components of ceRNA networks, in drug resistance in thyroid cancer cases is undeniable,” Liu and colleagues wrote. Although the last decade has seen substantial progress in terms of our understanding of the genetic basis of thyroid cancer, survival rates of patients with aggressive thyroid cancer have not improved sufficiently.

“A better understanding of how ceRNA networks affect EMT at different molecular levels may lead to novel anti-metastasis therapies as well as the discovery of prognostic or diagnostic biomarkers for thyroid cancer,” the authors concluded.

“Furthermore, future investigation into the activities and mechanisms of the revealed ceRNA networks in noncoding RNA-induced thyroid cancer cell resistance to chemotherapeutic treatments may offer insight into the treatment of thyroid cancer.”


Liu Y, Khan S, Li L, Ten Hagen TLM, Falahati M. Molecular mechanisms of thyroid cancer: a competing endogenous RNA (ceRNA) point of viewBiomed Pharmacother. 2021;146:112251. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2021.112251