A small slice of RNA inhibits prostate cancer metastasis by suppressing a surface protein commonly found on prostate cancer stem cells. A research team led by scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reported today in an advance online publication at Nature Medicine.
"Our findings are the first to profile a microRNA expression pattern in prostate cancer stem cells and also establish a strong rationale for developing the microRNA miR-34a as a new treatment option for prostate cancer," said senior author Dean Tang, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's Department of Molecular Carcinogenesis.
MicroRNAs, or miRNAs, are short, single-stranded bits of RNA that regulate the messenger RNA expressed by genes to create a protein.
Cancer stem cells are capable of self-renewal, have enhanced tumor-initiating ability and are generally more resistant to treatment than other cancer cells. They are associated with tumor recurrence and metastasis, the lethal spreading of cancer to other organs. These capacities are more prevalent in cancer cells that feature a specific cell surface protein called CD44, Tang said.
"CD44 has long been linked to promotion of tumor development and, especially, to cancer metastasis," Tang said. "Many cancer stem cells overexpress this surface adhesion molecule. Another significant finding from our study is identifying CD44 itself as a direct and functional target of miR-34a."
MicroRNA goes up, CD44 and cancer stem cells fall
In a series of lab experiments with cell lines, human xenograft tumors in mice and primary human prostate cancer samples, the researchers demonstrated that miR-34a inhibits prostate cancer stem cells by suppressing CD44.
miR-34a is greatly reduced in prostate cancer cells that express high levels of CD44 on the cell surface. In 18 human prostate tumors, the microRNA was expressed at 25 to 70 percent of the levels found in cells without CD44.
Prostate tumors in mice that also received miR-34a treatment were one third to half the average size of those in control group mice.
In CD44-positive prostate cancer cell lines, treatment with miR-34a resulted in greatly reduced tumor incidence. Most dramatically, in one cell line, tumor regeneration was blocked in all 10 treated animals, while tumors formed in all 10 animals treated with the control miRNAs.
Many characteristics of cancer stem cells – formation of self-renewing cells, clonal growth capacity and formation of spheres – were suppressed when miR-34a was overexpressed in prostate cancer cell lines.
Most significantly, intravenous treatment of tumor-bearing mice with synthetic miR-34a reduced tumor burden by half in one tumor type. It also steeply reduced lung metastases in another tumor type, resulting in increased animal survival.
Interestingly, the researchers observed a consistent, inverse relationship between miR-34a levels and CD44, the surface marker used to enrich prostate cancer stem cells. For example, the CD44 protein and CD44-expressing cancer cells were reduced in tumors treated with the microRNA. Tumors with miR-34a blocked had higher levels of CD44 protein and messenger RNA.
Finally, knocking down CD44 with a short hairpin RNA produced the same results as treating cells with miR-34a did – reduced tumor development, tumor burden and metastases.
"There are many companies developing microRNA-based drugs," Tang said. "Delivery of miRNAs is a challenge, but the field is moving fast through the preclinical stage."
Scientists from Austin-based Mirna Therapeutics collaborated on the study. Mirna has eight microRNAs in preclinical development, including miR-34a.
The project was funded in part by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Elsa Pardee Foundation.
Co-authors were first author Can Liu, Bigang Liu, M.D., Xin Chen, Tammy Calhoun-Davis, Hangwen Li, Ph.D., Hong Yan, Ph.D., Collene Jeter, Ph.D., and Sofia Honorio, Ph.D., all of MD Anderson's Department of Molecular Carcinogenesis at the Science Park in Smithville, Texas; Can Liu and Xin Chen are also students in The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston, jointly operated by MD Anderson and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; Lubna Patrawala, Ph.D., Kevin Kelnar, Jason Wiggins, Andreas Bader, Ph.D., and David Brown, Ph.D., all of Mirna Therapeutics, Inc. and Randy Fagin, M.D., of The Hospital at Westlake, Austin, Texas.
About MD Anderson
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston ranks as one of the world's most respected centers focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. MD Anderson is one of only 40 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. For seven of the past nine years, including 2010, MD Anderson has ranked No. 1 in cancer care in "America's Best Hospitals," a survey published annually in U.S. News & World Report. Get MD Anderson News Via RSS Follow MD Anderson News on Twitter
Scott Merville | EurekAlert!
Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement
26.06.2017 | University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine
New insight into a central biological dogma on ion transport
26.06.2017 | Aarhus University
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
26.06.2017 | Life Sciences
26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.06.2017 | Information Technology