Scientists find molecule to starve lung cancer and improve ventilator recovery

A new research report published online in the FASEB Journal reveals a connection among sugar, cancer, and dependence on breathing machines--microRNA-320a. In the report, Stanford scientists show that the molecule microRNA-320a is responsible for helping control glycolysis. Glycolysis is the process of converting sugar into energy, which fuels the growth of some cancers, and contributes to the wasting of unused muscles such as the diaphragm when people are using ventilators. Identifying ways to use microRNA-320a to starve tumors and keep unused muscles strong would represent a significant therapeutic leap for numerous diseases and health conditions.

"We hope that this discovery will yield a new avenue of molecular treatment for cancers, particularly , which is the number one cause of cancer deaths worldwide," said Joseph B. Shrager, M.D., a researcher involved in the work who is a Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and Chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine, and VA Palo Alto Healthcare System in California. "We also hope it can lead to a treatment to be given to patients who require the breathing machine, reducing the length of time they require the machine, and thereby reducing complications and deaths."

To make this discovery, Shrager and colleagues studied lung from patients and tissue from the diaphragm (the primary muscle used for breathing) from patients who had been on a for more than a few hours. They found that both types of tissue had increases in glycolysis, as well as reductions in a molecule that controls glycolysis—microRNA-320a. Test tube experiments then showed that microRNA-320a definitely controls how much energy these two very different tissues have available to them.

"Just as the discovery of angiogenesis opened new doors to find ways to stop cancers and to help the body heal itself," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the , "this discovery, on a smaller scale, does the same by identifying an important molecule that may help starve tumors and help the body recover."

More information: Huibin Tang, Myung Lee, Orr Sharpe, Louis Salamone, Emily J. Noonan, Chuong D. Hoang, Sanford Levine, William H. Robinson, and Joseph B. Shrager. Oxidative stress-responsive microRNA-320 regulates glycolysis in diverse biological systems. FASEB J. doi:10.1096/fj.11-197467

Related Stories

Small molecules can starve cancer cells

Oct 09, 2011

All cells in our body have a system that can handle cellular waste and release building blocks for recycling. The underlying mechanism is called autophagy and literally means "self-eating". Many cancer cells have increased ...

Researchers discover microRNA role in brain metastasis

Apr 01, 2011

Conducting genetic profiles using microRNA can help doctors predict which lung cancer patients are likely to also develop brain metastasis (BM), according to a study published today by Scottsdale Healthcare and the Translational ...

Study links molecule to muscle maturation, muscle cancer

Dec 30, 2008

Researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center have discovered that a molecule implicated in leukemia and lung cancer is also important in muscle repair and in a muscle cancer that strikes ...

Recommended for you

Discovery could lead to new cancer treatment

11 hours ago

A team of scientists from the University of Colorado School of Medicine has reported the breakthrough discovery of a process to expand production of stem cells used to treat cancer patients. These findings could have implications ...

Is the HPV vaccine necessary?

17 hours ago

As the school year starts in full swing many parents wonder if their child should receive the HPV vaccine, which is recommended for girls ages 11-26 and boys 11-21. There are a lot of questions and controversy around this ...

User comments