Now, researchers can develop more effective drugs to prevent or treat cancer metastasis, as they have identified a specific group of microRNA molecules that are responsible for controlling genes that cause breast cancer metastasis.
The study, led by scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), appears in the January 10, 2008, issue of Nature.
The researchers examined human breast cancer cells with strong metastatic ability and found that the cells had lost large numbers of three different microRNA molecules. Conversely, when researchers put those molecules back into human breast cancer tumors in mice, the tumors lost their ability to spread.
In addition, the researchers looked at breast cancer patients and discovered that those with tumors that had lost these molecules were much more likely to suffer from cancer metastasis to the lung and bone.
MicroRNAs identified are
MicroRNAs are known to inhibit the activity of entire sets of genes associated with cancer metastasis – a process that leads to the majority of cancer-related deaths. The new work explains how the loss of certain microRNAs allows cancer cells to migrate through organ tissue and to grow more rapidly.
“The identification of molecules that inhibit a cell’s metastatic potential may help guide clinical decision-making in the future by enabling oncologists to more accurately identify patients at highest risk for metastatic relapse,” said the study’s lead author Sohail Tavazoie, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Oncology-Hematology Fellowship program at MSKCC.
The study was co-authored by William L. Gerald, MD, PhD, a surgical pathologist and member of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at MSKCC, and by members of Dr. Massagu?’s laboratory, including Claudio Alarc?n, graduate student; Thordur Oskarsson, PhD, research fellow; David Padua, graduate student; Qiongqing Wang, PhD, research fellow; and Paula D. Bos, graduate student.
The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Hearst Foundation, the Kleberg Foundation, and the Olson Foundation, and a Clinical Scholars Award.
Source: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, USA