Background: Insulin resistance is a pathological condition characterized by the failure of target cells to uptake and metabolize glucose in response to insulin. In particular, the elevated concentrations of glucose, insulin and free insulin growth factor-1, which result from insulin resistance, may generate a pro-inflammatory and protumorigenic state. These alterations may underlie the increased risk to develop various types of cancer as well as the worse cancer prognosis observed in obese and diabetic patients. MicroRNAs are short molecules of noncoding endogenous RNA, which are involved in several physio-pathological conditions like glucose homeostasis, lipid metabolism, insulin signaling and resistance. MicroRNAs play also a crucial role in tumorigenesis, acting as oncomirs or tumor suppressors depending on the cell context. Methods: Here, we recapitulate the role of certain microRNAs that are associated with both insulin resistance and cancer, and discuss their potential to be considered as therapeutic targets. Results: Several studies have highlighted the action of diverse microRNAs in the aforementioned disorders. For instance, three microRNA clusters namely miR-103/107, miR-221/222 and miR-29 have been found to be upregulated in insulin resistance and certain types of cancer. These microRNAs have been shown to target genes like PTEN, Dicer and caveolins that are largely involved in important processes relevant to both insulin resistance and cancer. Conclusion: Certain microRNAs may represent potential drug targets common to both insulin resistance and cancer. In particular, the inhibition of miR-103/107, miR-221/222 and miR-29 may be taken into account in novel pharmacological approaches aiming to treat these two disorders.
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