APR 30, 2020 5:04 AM PDT

A New microRNA for the Cancer Fighting Toolkit

WRITTEN BY: Jasper Cantrell

MiRNAs are small snippets of genetic information that are thought to be able to regulate up to 60% of the genome. While they were discovered in the 1990s, their use in cancer treatment and diagnostics is still young. Oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs), one of the deadliest head and neck cancers with a poor prognosis and high recurrence. A group from Shanghai hypothesized a miRNA, miR148a, may help diagnose, or even treat, OSCC.

MiR148a is a miRNA that has appeared in several studies linking it to gastric, lung, esophageal, oral cancers. Its overexpression in in vitro experiments was found to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells. Using this as a base, the team decided to investigate MiR148a in patients with OSCC. They gathered 110 patients with OSCC. Sixty-six patients were in stages one or two, while forty-four were in stages three or four. Using qRT-PCR, the levels of miR148a were measured for each patient. Lower levels of miR148a were found to correlate with OSCCs that had metastasized. Follow up in vitro experiments using cancer cell lines with low miR148a expression found that increasing miR148a levels inhibited the cells’ cellular proliferation and growth.

Setting out to investigate the mechanism by which miR148a worked as a tumor suppressor, they ran a binding sequence screen. They found the insulin-like growth factor receptor 1 (IGF-IR) gene to be a likely candidate for binding. MiR148a could theoretically bind to an untranslated region of the gene and inhibit its expression. IGF-IR is a tyrosine kinase that has been implicated in cancer progression by increasing cellular proliferation, possibly through the activation of the ERK/MAPK pathway, which controls cellular proliferation and division. Indeed, in vitro assays showed that when miR148a was expressed, IGF-IR was down-regulated, which decreased activated proteins of the ERK/MAPK pathway. Taking away miR148a, or overexpressing IGF-IR, reactivated the pathway and led to an increase in cancer cell growth. This effectively connected miR148a to the suppression of the ERK/MAPK pathway, a common pathway upregulated in many cancers.

The group states, “In conclusion, miR-148a expression is down-regulated in OSCC and it may inhibit the progression of OSCC through inactivating ERK/MAPK signaling pathway via targeting IGF-IR.” The toolkit in the fight against cancer is expanding every day. MiRNAs like miR148a are great options for biomarkers that can be used to detect cancer both before and after treatment. There may be a route where they can even be used for treatments. There is still a lot to learn about them; however, further research continues to bring them into clarity.

Sources: Portland Press, Random42 Scientific Communication
 

About the Author
  • Hey everyone! My name is Jasper and, considering I am pretty new here to Labroots, I figured I would introduce myself. I received my bachelor’s from the University of California at Riverside back in 2016. I started off my career a few years ago with a job at a University over in New York, before moving over into the industry. I'm happy to be writing content for Labroots, and I hope you enjoy it!
You May Also Like
MAR 30, 2021
Immunology
Single-Cell Technology Exposes Melanoma's Weak Spot
MAR 30, 2021
Single-Cell Technology Exposes Melanoma's Weak Spot
The immune system encompasses a powerful arsenal of weapons against pathogenic threats. But what stops healthy tissues i ...
APR 01, 2021
Immunology
Tumor-Killing 101: Vaccine Trains Immune Cells to Keep Skin Cancer at Bay
APR 01, 2021
Tumor-Killing 101: Vaccine Trains Immune Cells to Keep Skin Cancer at Bay
Cancer researchers have developed a therapeutic vaccine for melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. Instead of protectin ...
MAY 04, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Vibrating Needles Make for Better Biopsies
MAY 04, 2021
Vibrating Needles Make for Better Biopsies
  To understand what’s going on with a patient, doctors may take a biopsy—a sample of tissue extracted ...
MAY 10, 2021
Cancer
Advancements in nanotech pave the way for improved chemotherapy
MAY 10, 2021
Advancements in nanotech pave the way for improved chemotherapy
New research from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reports on a development in improving the effectiveness of c ...
MAY 20, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Ovarian Cancer Screening More Beneficial for Early Cancer Detection
MAY 20, 2021
Ovarian Cancer Screening More Beneficial for Early Cancer Detection
A UK-based research study has shown that while ovarian cancer screening is beneficial for detecting cancers earlier, it ...
JUN 05, 2021
Cancer
How is the new hospital price transparency rule going?
JUN 05, 2021
How is the new hospital price transparency rule going?
New findings from an analysis of hospital price transparency have been published recently in JAMA. The analysis was ...
Loading Comments...