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MicroRNAs can convert normal cells into cancer promoters
Date:11/21/2012

When fibroblast-dense tissues are infiltrated by cancer cells, however, "intimate cross-talk between fibroblasts and cancer cells" can covert them to cancer-associated fibroblasts, Lengyel said, "shifting them into a new role."

"Only a few years ago scientists learned how to reprogram normal cells into cells that can give rise to any cell type in the body," said the second lead author on the study Marcus Peter, PhD, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Our work demonstrates that cancer cells also have the ability to reprogram cells in their environment into cells that support their growth and that this process involves microRNAs."

The researchers found that cancer cells caused normal fibroblasts to reduce production of two microRNAs, miR-31 and miR-214, and to increase production of miR-155. Since microRNAs usually block gene expression, reduced levels increased expression of several of their target genes. Many of those genes are involved in the production of the chemical signals associated with CAFs.

The most highly upregulated such signal, known as CCL5, is a "key tumor-promoting factor," the authors show. When human ovarian cancer cells and CAFs were co-injected into mice, the tumor cells soon replaced normal ovarian structures. Antibodies that neutralized CCL5 inhibited this augmented growth.

"One strength of our study is that we used tumor cells and CAFs from patients, rather than cell lines," said Lengyel, a gynecologic oncologist who specializes in the surgical treatment of women with ovarian cancer. "Our model system is as close as possible to the real situation."

"Therapeutic approaches targeting microRNAs in cancer cells are under development," added Peter. "Our work suggests that it might be possible to modify microRNA expression in cancer-associated fibroblasts for therapeutic benefit."


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Contact: John Easton
john.easton@uchospitals.edu
773-795-5225
University of Chicago Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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