Breast cancer, study reveals the role of a microRNA in inhibiting its growth
Researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology-IIT carried out a study that may open the way to new strategies against breast cancer.
The study, published in the prestigious journal Oncogene of the Nature Group, revealed the role of miR-34a – a specific microRNA molecule – in inhibiting breast cancer stem cell growth. The study supported by the AIRC-Italian Association for Cancer Research.
MicroRNAs are a class of molecules that act as molecular switches, able to selectively control the expression of many genes. Despite their small size, these RNA molecules play a key role in a variety of biological processes and in numerous diseases, including cancer.
Researchers have been studying miR-34a for years. This molecule is already known for its ability to inhibit cancer cell growth but its mechanism of action was still largely unknown.
By studying miR-34a during the formation and development of the mammary gland, the researchers found that this molecule can control both the proliferation and the stemness properties in cells, fundamental in tissue homeostasis and regeneration.
This result explains the role of the microRNA molecule in blocking the growth of cancer cells with stem-like properties, thought to be the most dangerous, as they are responsible for disease progression and recurrence.
“This work allowed us to understand that the physiological expression of the microRNA, miR-34a, can limit the expansion of stem cells and can therefore more effectively fight the progression of cancer”, explained Paola Bonetti, lead author of the study.
The research was conducted in the laboratory of the Center for Genomic Science – coordinated by Francesco Nicassio – using the most innovative genome analysis techniques aimed at identifying and characterizing microRNAs involved in breast cancer.
Next objective: to continue to test the effectiveness of new therapeutic approaches aimed at exploiting microRNAs to fight cancer growth.
“Using modern nanotechnologies under development in other IIT departments, we are already testing new systems to deliver microRNAs into cancer cells. Our hope is to carry out these studies successfully”, concluded Francesco Nicassio.