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Date:11/2/2008

her Hartmann, director of the Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Pharmacology says. 'That is why the immune system took it for the genetic makeup of a virus.' Many viruses actually do use RNA to store information. So if the body discovers RNA fragments which it takes to be the genetic makeup of a virus, it mounts an attack on them. By means of this trick the body's defences were prompted to tackle the tumour cells far more aggressively than normal.

RNA is also present in the body's own cells. For a long time it was not known how the immune system distinguishes between 'harmful' and 'harmless' RNA. Only two years ago, Professor Hartmann was able to shed light on the problem in a sensational article in the journal 'Science'. The scientists used this knowledge in order to modify the RNA substance in such a way that it was able to alert the immune system.

'The beauty of this method is that we can attack the cancer with one designer molecule along two completely different routes,' Professor Hartmann says. 'This way the tumour is deprived of opportunities of sidestepping the attack that make successful therapy so difficult in other cases.' Initial experiments in mouse models have shown that growth of metastases in the lungs is inhibited significantly by the new molecule. The therapy even led to the secondary tumours becoming smaller or even disappearing entirely.

Despite this, the research team warns against excessive optimism: 'What works in mice does not necessarily prove successful in humans as well,' Professor Tting warns. 'Apart from that, many issues need to be addressed before a trial with cancer patients can even be thought of.' Still, the approach appears very promising, especially as the therapeutic RNA molecule can be easily customised to suit different kinds of cancer.


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Contact: Professor Thomas Tting
Thomas.Tueting@ukb.uni-bonn.de
49-022-828-719-257
University of Bonn
Source:Eurekalert

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