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Missing molecules hold promise of therapy for pancreatic cancer
Date:12/15/2010

By determining what goes missing in human cells when the gene that is most commonly mutated in pancreatic cancer gets turned on, Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered a potential strategy for therapy.

The production of a particular cluster of genetic snippets known as microRNAs is dramatically reduced in human pancreatic tumor cells compared to healthy tissue, the researchers report in a study published Dec. 15 in Genes and Development. When the team restored this tiny regulator, called miR-143/145, back to normal levels in human pancreatic cancer cells, those cells lost their ability to form tumors.

"Our finding that these specific microRNAs are downstream of the most important oncogene in pancreatic cancer sets the stage for developing methods to deliver them to tumors," says Josh Mendell, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and an early career scientist of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "When we restore microRNAs to cancer cells in which their levels are repressed, the cells no longer are tumorigenic. We have every reason to believe that the efficient delivery of miR-143/145, if achievable, would be therapeutically beneficial."

The team focused its investigation on KRAS, a member of the important RAS family of oncogenes that is mutated in almost all cases of the most common form of pancreatic cancer.

The researchers conducted their studies in a multitude of model systems human cells growing in culture as well as those harvested directly from tumors, and also in mice and zebrafish. First, using cell lines derived from pancreatic tumors and growing in culture, they added gene products such as mutant KRAS and an inhibitor of mutant KRAS, and then measured the microRNA responses. Next, they conducted the same experiments using cells from patients' pancreatic tumors. Finally, they looked at pancreatic tis
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Contact: Maryalice Yakutchik
myakutc1@jhmi.edu
443-287-2251
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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