Researchers ID molecule linked to aggressive cancer growth, spread

November 13, 2008

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found a genetic marker that controls an enzyme present in aggressive and metastatic cancer. The study suggests an absence of microRNA-101 is related to high expression of the protein EZH2, which was previously shown to be active in metastatic cancers. MicroRNA's are molecules that help regulate gene expression. miR-101 is one of few miRNA's shown to play such an important role in the development of cancer.

In this study, the researchers found miR-101 is significantly underexpressed in a variety of cancers, including prostate and breast cancer. Essentially, the researchers believe that miR-101 suppresses the EZH2 protein. When miR-101 is lost in cancer, EZH2 expression is uncontrolled, and that haywire in-gene expression leads to more aggressive cancer growth.

The findings suggest that loss of miR-101 could potentially be used as a marker of aggressive or metastatic cancer. Replacement of miR-101 in cancers could also be developed as a future cancer treatment.

The study will be published online in the journal Science on Nov. 13. It was led by Arul M. Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology and investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Source: University of Michigan

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