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Common molecular 'signature' identified in solid tumors

Scientists have discovered that a wide variety of different cancers actually share something in common ?a molecular "signature" made up of tiny bits of genetic material called microRNA (miRNA) that target key cancer genes and promote malignant growth.

The finding provides more insight into miRNA as an emerging class of gene regulators and may also pave the way for new approaches in diagnosis and treatment.

The study appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have only recently begun to understand how important microRNA may be in regulating gene expression. For years, these tiny bits of genetic material went unnoticed ?nestled within vast stretches of the genome that appeared to be non-functional. They may have been easy to overlook: miRNAs are usually only 22 or so nucleotides in length ?miniscule in size when compared to their cousins, messenger RNA, which can be several hundred to a thousand times that long.

But several years ago, researchers studying roundworms noted that properly functioning miRNA was necessary for normal development. Since then, scientists in laboratories around the world have identified hundreds of miRNAs and found that they are highly conserved over time ?meaning that they show up in generation after generation in everything from plants to mice to humans ?confirming their important roles in growth and survival.

Carlo Croce, professor and chair of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at The Ohio State University and the first researcher to discover miRNA involvement in human cancer, had a hunch that there might be shared patterns of miRNA among certain cancers. Under his direction, researchers looked for miRNA activity, or expression, in 540 samples of lung, breast, stomach, prostate, colon and pancreatic tumors and in the normal tissue surrounding them.

Using microarray technology developed at Ohio State , lead investigators Stefano Voli
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Source:Ohio State University


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