The expression of microRNAs (miRNAs) – small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression by binding to the 3′-untranslated region (3′UTR) of target mRNAs – is frequently deregulated in ovarian cancer, but the role of miRNAs in this form of cancer is poorly understood. One possibility is that miRNAs regulate the expression of the serine/threonine kinase activin receptor-like kinase 7 (ALK7), through which the growth factor Nodal acts to induce apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells. On page 359, Chun Peng and colleagues test this possibility by analysing the interaction between miRNAs and the 3′UTR of ALK7 mRNA. Using human ovarian cancer cell lines, they show that miR-376c targets ALK7, and that ectopic expression of miR-376c increases cell proliferation and survival, blocks Nodal-induced apoptosis and blocks cisplatin-induced cell death. Moreover, ALK7 expression is weak and miR-376c levels are high in cancer cells from patients who respond poorly to chemotherapy, whereas the converse is true in samples from patients who respond well to chemotherapy. The authors conclude, therefore, that cisplatin-induced death of ovarian cancer cells involves the Nodal–ALK7 pathway, and that miR-376c helps to promote the survival, proliferation and chemoresistance of ovarian cancer cells by targeting ALK7.