In what may be a breakthrough in the development of a treatment for mesothelioma, a new study reveals clues as to why tumor cells grow out of control and how to stop them.
Rosetta Genomics, a developer of microRNA-based molecular diagnostics, conducted the joint study on malignant pleural mesothelioma with medical researchers from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and New York University Langone Medical Center. The findings were published in the online issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry. In the study, tumor cells from mesothelioma patients were found to be missing a molecular component called miR-31. MiR-31 has recently been found to suppress the growth and spread of breast cancer cells. When miR-31 was reintroduced into the mesothelioma cells, it suppressed cell cycle progression and significantly inhibited the replication of DNA, making them much slower to multiply.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are recently discovered cell components that act as master switches for protein synthesis inside cells. The presence or absence of certain microRNAs has been shown to be a reliable predictor (also called a biomarker) of how cells will function. Since miR-31 seems to inhibit the proliferation, migration, and invasion of cancer cells, Rosetta Genomics is hoping it may help them develop highly-targeted, biologically-based treatments for mesothelioma and other cancers.
“This latest publication is another demonstration of microRNA’s potential role in cancer therapeutics and details the significant impact a single microRNA can have on disease course,” says Kenneth A. Berlin, President and CEO of Rosetta Genomics. “Over the past several years, microRNAs have been hailed as one of the most significant scientific and medical discoveries.”
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that attacks the lining of the abdomen and around the heart and lungs. It is caused by repeated exposure – usually in the workplace – to tiny sharp fibers of the mineral fiber asbestos. About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases are diagnosed annual in the U.S. Because mesothelioma is often resistant to traditional cancer therapies, including chemotherapy and radiation, biologically-based therapies such as those based on microRNA are believed by many to offer the best hope for a more effective therapy.
Ivanov, Sergey.“Pro-tumorigenic effect of meR-31 loss in mesothelioma”. May 12, 2010. The Journal of Biological Chemistry online. Joint Study by Rosetta Genomics and NYU Langone Medical Center Identifies Potential microRNA Drug Target for Mesothelioma, May 24, 2010. Rosetta Genomics website.