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New papers identify a microRNA that drives both cancer onset and metastasis
Date:7/3/2013

BOSTON -- A mere 25 years ago, noncoding RNAs were considered nothing more than "background noise" in the overall genomic landscape. Now, two new studies reveal that one of these tiny noncoding molecules microRNA-22 plays an outsized role in two types of cancer.

Reported on-line today in the journals Cell and Cell Stem Cell, the two papers demonstrate in mouse models that miR-22 drives both the onset and spread of breast cancer, as well as the onset of blood cancer. The findings, led by investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), further suggest that inhibition of miR-22 through a "decoy" method offers a novel therapeutic option for treating hematological malignancies.

"This is the first time that a microRNA has been shown to drive both cancer initiation and metastasis in a mouse model," explains senior author Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhD, Scientific Director of the Cancer Center at BIDMC and the George Reisman Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "It's amazing that, by itself, this one little microRNA can trigger cancer in two different organs, perhaps in many more, and in the case of breast cancer, can also promote metastasis."

Although many advances have been made in identifying the genetic causes of some cancers, it has become apparent that changes in the primary DNA sequence alone cannot explain the many steps that are necessary to turn a normal cell into a cancer cell. As these new papers confirm, epigenetic modifications which occur apart from changes in the underlying DNA sequences and include DNA methylation and histone modification have now been recognized as playing integral roles in cancer.

"Our discovery is exciting for several reasons," says Pandolfi. "Mechanistically, we have revealed one way in which microRNAs can fundamentally reconfigure the way that DNA is read. Our findings show that miR-22 triggers an epigenetic 're-wiring,' if you will, which represses th
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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