Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2017

Author's Department

Biomedical Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short single-stranded RNAs that function as the guide sequence of the post-transcriptional regulatory process known as the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), which targets mRNA sequences for degradation through complementary binding to the guide miRNA. Changes in miRNA expression have been reported as correlated with numerous biological processes, including embryonic development, cellular differentiation, and disease manifestation. In the latter case, dysregulation has been observed in response to infection by human papillomavirus (HPV), which has also been established as both oncogenic in cervical cancers and oropharyngeal cancers and favorable for overall patient survival after tumor formation. The identification of dysregulated miRNAs associated with both HPV infection and cancer survival requires large datasets of high-throughput sequencing data, which were obtained through The Cancer Genome Atlas. By analyzing this public data, we have identified a series of proposed mechanisms for cancer formation and survival that is mediated through the miRNA-RISC regulatory mechanism in response to HPV infection. We have also identified a diverse set of miRNA biomarkers that have been incorporated into linear expression-based risk signatures that are prognostic for overall patient survival after tumor diagnosis in HPV-related cancers. The tools that were used to identify both miRNA biomarkers and proposed targets in public datasets, such as The Cancer Genome Atlas, have since been incorporated into an web-accessible resource,, to streamline the process of biomarker identification for the cancer research community.


English (en)


Xiaowei Wang

Committee Members

Jin-Yu Shao, Hong Chen, Gary Stormo, Christopher Maher,


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