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Small molecules shed light on cancer therapies
Date:8/22/2011

Patients suffering from an aggressive brain cancer will benefit from the results of a University of Illinois study that could advance the development of targeted gene therapies and improve prognosis.

"We have advanced the understanding of the role of microRNAs on glioblastoma multiforme, a deadly brain cancer, by studying the networks between the microRNAs and their target genes associated with different stages of cancer development and progression," said Kristin Delfino, a U of I doctoral candidate in animal science with a focus in genetics and bioinformatics.

What exactly are microRNAs? microRNAs are small, non-coding RNA molecules that regulate the expression of genes such as oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes. U of I researchers used a novel approach to identify the simultaneous association between tens of thousands of microRNAs, target genes, and glioblastoma progression and survival.

Delfino integrated clinical information such as race, gender, therapy, survival, and cancer stage from 253 patients together with genome-wide microRNA and gene expression data.

"We looked at the big picture and how microRNAs work together," Delfino said. "When you look at a single microRNA alone, it can seem significant. But when you evaluate it in the context of all other microRNAs, some turn out to be more significant and others may not be as significant as they appear on their own. The systems biology approach that we implemented is critical for understanding the gene pathways influencing cancer."

The study evaluated 534 microRNAs together, unlike the typical method of studying one at a time. They confirmed 25 microRNAs previously associated with glioblastoma survival and identified 20 other microRNAs associated with initiation or growth of other cancer types such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and gastric adenocarcinoma.

"These findings suggest common pathways that can be targeted with similar drugs already develop
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Contact: Jennifer Shike
jshike@illinois.edu
217-244-0888
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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