Unchecked growth isn’t the only reason cancer is so dangerous. It’s movement. Cancer cells have a way of spreading throughout the body, invading new areas with deadly consequences.
A collaboration between scientists at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and OMRF has yielded new information about the role a type of molecule called MicroRNA 19 plays in cancer’s movement. The research appears in the most recent issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry.
“What we know now is why some cancers may stay put while others spread through the body,” said Wei-Qun Ding, Ph.D., a molecular oncology researcher with OU Medicine and the senior author on the paper. “This discovery has the potential to yield treatments that could reduce the invasiveness of some types of cancer.”
Some refer to DNA as the building blocks of life, containing the recipes necessary for the body to create new cells. If DNA is the cookbook, the RNA is the chef, communicating with the DNA which ingredients to make. MicroRNA is used to “silence” parts of the DNA, turning them off and on in order to keep too much of an ingredient from ruining the final product.
OMRF researcher Florea Lupu, Ph.D., who co-authored the paper, said their discovery may be clinically important as a lack of MicroRNA 19 could lead to increased invasiveness in breast, pancreatic and other cancers that are associated with high risk of blood clots.
Using cells grown from breast cancer samples, researchers looked for varying degrees of a particular protein that affects blood clotting, the movement of cells throughout the body, and the formation of new blood vessels.
Cells with higher levels of MicroRNA 19 contained less of the protein, which reduces their likelihood of spreading elsewhere in the body and causing new tumors.
“If we can find a way to increase the levels of MicroRNA 19 in patients with certain kinds of cancers, it could slow or even stop the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body, Lupu said.
The scientists will continue studying MicroRNA 19 and investigate whether it can be used as a therapeutic for cancer patients.