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Cancer is one of the most important diseases of humans, for which no cure has been found so far. Understanding the causes of cancer can pave the way for its treatment. Alteration in genetic elements such as oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes results in cancer. The most recent theory for the origin of cancer has been provided by cancer stem cells (CSCs). Tumor-initiating cells (T-ICs) or CSCs are a small population isolated from tumors and hematologic malignancies. Since CSCs are similar to embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in many aspects (such as pluripotency and self-renewal), recognizing the signaling pathways through which ESCs maintain their stemness can also help identify CSC signaling. One component of these signaling pathways is non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). ncRNAs are classified in two groups: microRNAs (miRNAs) and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). miRNAs undergo altered expression in cancer. In this regard, they are classified as Onco-miRNAs or tumor suppressor miRNAs. Some miRNAs play similar roles in ESCs and CSCs, such as let-7 and miR-302. This review focuses on the miRNAs involved in stemness of ESCs and CSCs by presenting a summary of the role of miRNAs in other tumor cells.
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