New RNA treatment can shrink cancers

March 20th, 2009 - 4:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 20 (IANS) A newly-identified type of microRNA could tackle aggressive cancers by helping to kill off their cells.
“MicroRNAs are very small, newly-identified RNA elements of the cell, and we’ve shown that one in particular - microRNA-7 or miR-7, can play a profound role in reversing cancer cell growth,” said Peter Leedman, a professor who led the research team.

Leedman, deputy director of Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR), added that miR-7 can significantly reduce the growth of some cancer cells, as well as killing off others - particularly in cancers of the brain, lung, breast and prostate.

“What’s special about this discovery is that we’ve shown, on a cellular level, that we can inhibit cancer cell growth and kill-off some cancerous cells very effectively with miR-7.”

Leedman said the research showed miR-7, which is normally found in some healthy cells, especially the brain and pancreas, can be almost undetectable in cancerous cells.

“Without miR-7, some cancer cells have free rein to grow, but when we add miR-7, the cancer cells start to die-off, which has the potential to assist current treatments, especially in rapid-growing, fatal cancers like brain tumours,” he said.

“In many patients, cancers don’t respond to treatments well enough or fast enough to totally eradicate the cancer, so what we are continuing to investigate is if miR-7 has the potential to make cancer cells respond better to these treatments - we still have a long way to go, but it’s a very exciting discovery,” he said, according to a WAIMR release.

The discovery was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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