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Small Molecule Might Play Big Part in Lung Cancer
Date:7/18/2009

tory of Human Carcinogenesis at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

According to Harris, miR-21 is also elevated in tobacco-related adenocarcinoma, but to a lesser extent. Earlier research also showed that elevated levels of miR-21 and other microRNAs were markers for poor survival in smoking-related lung cancer.

All lung cancers are notoriously difficult to treat. They have an overall five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent and kill nearly 160,000 Americans every year. Researchers, therefore, are hopeful whenever they find something in the cancer cell to target with an existing or potential therapy. Two recent targeted therapies for specific lung cancers follow this line of scientific thought -- gefitinib (Iressa) and erlotinib (Tarceva).

To test their hypothesis that miR-21 and EGFR may make attractive targets for therapy, the researchers tested two experimental compounds: an antisense molecule designed to bind to the RNA and essentially turn it off; and a compound called AG1478, which targets the cell's EGFR and tyrosine kinase pathway.

The researchers found that the drugs were most effective in accelerating cancer cell death when used together, suggesting that EGFR plays an important role in miR-21 elevation and cancer creation.

"It's a long road from 'bench to bedside,'" Lichtenfeld said of the findings. "But clearly this study offers the suggestion that there can be an effective treatment for nonsmokers whose adenocarcinoma shows miR-21 elevation."

More information

More on lung cancer can be found at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.



SOURCE: Curtis Harris, M.D., U.S. National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md.; Len Lichtenfeld, M.D., deputy chief medical officer, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; July 13-18, 2009, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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