Previous studies have revealed the aberrant expression of a number of microRNAs (miRNA/miRs) in the blood circulation of patients with breast cancer (BC). The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of neoadjuvant chemotherapy on the levels of a panel of BC-associated miRNAs, which are at relatively low (let-7, miR-10b, miR-34, miR-155, miR-200c and miR-205) or abundant (miR-21, miR-195 and miR-221) levels in the circulation. Patients with primary operable or locally advanced BC were enrolled in the study. The plasma levels of the miRNAs at baseline and at the fourth cycle of treatment were compared. Patients with stage II disease exhibited higher basal miRNAs levels than those with higher stages. The difference was most evident for miR-155 and miR-21 (P=0.05). From the initial to the fourth cycle of chemotherapy, the miRNA levels changed substantially. In samples in which the miRNA levels generally declined, a marked decrease (<= 15,500-fold) was evident for the abundant miRNAs. Notably, the occurrence of a decrease in miRNA levels was more frequent in patients with smaller tumor sizes (P<0.05 for miR-21 and miR-195). This.proof-of-concept study provides evidence that highly expressed miRNAs are affected most frequently by chemotherapy, particularly in patients with early stage tumors. This information may be valuable in assessing the response of the patients to therapy.