Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Common molecular ’signature’ identified in solid tumors


Scientists have discovered that a wide variety of different cancers actually share something in common – a molecular “signature” made up of tiny bits of genetic material called microRNA (miRNA) that target key cancer genes and promote malignant growth.

The finding provides more insight into miRNA as an emerging class of gene regulators and may also pave the way for new approaches in diagnosis and treatment. The study appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have only recently begun to understand how important microRNA may be in regulating gene expression. For years, these tiny bits of genetic material went unnoticed – nestled within vast stretches of the genome that appeared to be non-functional. They may have been easy to overlook: miRNAs are usually only 22 or so nucleotides in length – miniscule in size when compared to their cousins, messenger RNA, which can be several hundred to a thousand times that long.

But several years ago, researchers studying roundworms noted that properly functioning miRNA was necessary for normal development. Since then, scientists in laboratories around the world have identified hundreds of miRNAs and found that they are highly conserved over time – meaning that they show up in generation after generation in everything from plants to mice to humans – confirming their important roles in growth and survival.

Carlo Croce, professor and chair of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at The Ohio State University and the first researcher to discover miRNA involvement in human cancer, had a hunch that there might be shared patterns of miRNA among certain cancers. Under his direction, researchers looked for miRNA activity, or expression, in 540 samples of lung, breast, stomach, prostate, colon and pancreatic tumors and in the normal tissue surrounding them.

Using microarray technology developed at Ohio State , lead investigators Stefano Volinia and George Calin found 137 different miRNAs expressed in at least half of the cancers, with 43 miRNAs allowing scientists to distinguish the difference between normal and malignant tissue.

Further tests showed that 21 of the distinguishing miRNAs were deregulated in at least three of the cancers – and in some cases, as many as five or all six. The researchers defined this limited set as the “miRNA signature” in solid tumors.

Croce says finding such a signature is important because it shows that many forms of cancer share common genetic pathways that become scrambled as cancer takes hold and spreads. He says narrowing the list of the most active ones provides a guide to directing future research.

“We know that there are hundreds of miRNAs, and some of them may have multiple gene targets. Finding the ones that appear over and over again in various forms of cancer will help us design new and better interventions,” says Croce.

MiRNAs can behave like oncogenes, which promote tumor growth, or tumor suppressors, which keep potentially malignant cells in check. Croce points out that miRNA activity is tissue-sensitive, meaning some miRNAs may be overexpressed, or “turned on” in some of the cancers while in others they are underexpressed, or “turned off.”

In the six types of cancer in the study, the majority (26) of the miRNAs were overexpressed, while 17 were underexpressed.

Calin and Volinia also identified several key cancer genes the miRNA signature targets, including the tumor suppressors retinoblastoma-1 (RB1) and transforming growth factor, beta receptor 2 (TGFBR2).

Croce predicts that miRNAs themselves may one day be used as treatments. “If we can replace miRNAs that are lost and block those that are overly abundant, then maybe we can prevent some of the very earliest changes that happen in the development of cancer. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done, but I am convinced that this field will give us more precise and less toxic ways of dealing with cancer than we have today – even considering some of our new, molecularly-targeted therapies.” Support from the research came from the National Cancer Institute, the Italian Ministry of Public Health, the Italian Ministry of University Research Telethon, the Italian Association for Cancer Research and a Kimmel Scholar award to George Calin.

Michelle Gailiun | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Microbe hunters discover long-sought-after iron-munching microbe
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Seeking balanced networks: how neurons adjust their proteins during homeostatic scaling.
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Seeking balanced networks: how neurons adjust their proteins during homeostatic scaling.

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

More VideoLinks >>>