Tiny RNA molecule removal can inhibit cancer growth

June 6, 2011

Research from the University of Louisville published today (June 6) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates the removal of a tiny RNA molecule in mice suppresses carcinogenic tumor formation. The study appears in the journal's Early Edition online.

Yong Li, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and his research team led by postdoctoral fellows Xiaodong Ma and Munish Kumar found that the removal of a non-coding RNA molecule known as 21 suppressed the formation of skin tumors in mice. This molecule – abbreviated as miR-21 – was targeted for study because of its presence in human cancer formation, Li said.

"In virtually all types of cancer, miR-21 is found to be present at elevated levels," Li said. "We believe it is essential to the growth of cancers."

Two groups of mice – 18 with miR-21 removed and a control group of 23 with miR-21 intact – were studied after skin tumors known as papillomas were induced with a heavy dose of a carcinogen. The group without miR-21 had just 1.5 tumors per mouse after 30 weeks as compared to 2.5 tumors per mouse in the control group. Moreover, one of the without miR-21 was tumor-free at the end of the study.

"Our work leads us to believe that miR-21 ablation (removal) increases the body's own suppressing ability to hold back tumors," Li said. "The cancer research community is increasingly aware the importance of the surroundings around tumor cells. Our ongoing study of miR-21 involves looking at how this molecule contributes to tumor environment."

The study's funding indicates the serendipitous aspect of bench science, Li said, because it was not funded by a cancer research agency or organization but in part by the American Heart Association and the UofL Diabetes and Obesity Center.

"We began our work in 2008 with the hypothesis that miR-21 plays a role in cardiovascular disease and diabetes," he said. "However, our research and reports from other groups suggest it does not, although we are continuing our work in these areas.

"Funding basic research is important because you never know where science will take you. It is clear from our research that miR-21 is taking us a bit closer to understanding ."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

CAR-T immunotherapy may help blood cancer patients who don't respond to standard treatments

October 20, 2017
Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is one of the first centers nationwide to offer a new immunotherapy that targets certain blood cancers. Newly approved ...

Researchers pinpoint causes for spike in breast cancer genetic testing

October 20, 2017
A sharp rise in the number of women seeking BRCA genetic testing to evaluate their risk of developing breast cancer was driven by multiple factors, including celebrity endorsement, according to researchers at the University ...

Study shows how nerves drive prostate cancer

October 19, 2017
In a study in today's issue of Science, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, part of Montefiore Medicine, report that certain nerves sustain prostate cancer growth by triggering a switch that causes tumor vessels ...

Gene circuit switches on inside cancer cells, triggers immune attack

October 19, 2017
Researchers at MIT have developed a synthetic gene circuit that triggers the body's immune system to attack cancers when it detects signs of the disease.

One to 10 mutations are needed to drive cancer, scientists find

October 19, 2017
For the first time, scientists have provided unbiased estimates of the number of mutations needed for cancers to develop, in a study of more than 7,500 tumours across 29 cancer types. Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger ...

Suicide molecules kill any cancer cell

October 19, 2017
Small RNA molecules originally developed as a tool to study gene function trigger a mechanism hidden in every cell that forces the cell to commit suicide, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study, the first to identify molecules ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.