Nav: Home

Tiny molecule has big effect in childhood brain tumor studies

November 07, 2018

SAN ANTONIO--Sometimes small things make the biggest differences.

A new study by UT Health San Antonio researchers found that a molecule thousands of times smaller than a gene is able to kill medulloblastoma, the most common childhood brain cancer.

This tiny molecule, named MiR-584-5p, is quite efficient in its action. MiR-584-5p sensitizes the cancer to chemotherapy and radiation, making it plausible to treat the tumors with one-tenth the dose that is currently required, said study senior author Manjeet Rao, Ph.D., associate professor of cell systems and anatomy at UT Health San Antonio and a member of the university's Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute.

"Currently we barrage the brain with radiation and chemo, and patients have poor quality of life," Dr. Rao said. "Using this molecule, we could dial down those therapies considerably, by 90 percent. That's exciting."

MiR-584-5p is at very low levels or absent altogether in medulloblastoma. Increasing it to the amount found in healthy cells robs the cancer of mechanisms it uses to survive, studies show. "This can serve as a potent therapeutic for treating cancer," Dr. Rao said.

The journal Nature Communications published the findings Oct. 31.

The other excitement about MiR-584-5p is that it is normally present at high levels in brain cells and not so in other tissues, Dr. Rao said. Therefore, when it is used in the brain as therapy to kill tumors, it will have negligible effects on the healthy cells because those cells have seen it before. "They may not treat the molecule as something foreign," Dr. Rao said. A future therapy based on the molecule should be well-tolerated, he said.

A big challenge for treating brain cancer patients is the inability of cancer drugs to cross the blood-brain barrier, a protective mechanism that holds up brain cancer therapies. Because it is so petite, MiR-584-5p may be able to cross this barrier, which is leaky in some medulloblastoma patients. In the future, Dr. Rao said, the molecule may be delivered using a nanoparticle carrier.

Aside from medulloblastoma, the properties of MiR-584-5p make it an excellent drug candidate for treatment of glioblastoma, an aggressive and lethal adult brain cancer, Dr. Rao said.

A patent on the MiR-584-5p technology has been filed with Dr. Rao and Nourhan Abdelfattah, Ph.D., first author on the paper, listed as inventors. Dr. Abdelfattah completed her doctoral work in the Rao laboratory and is a postdoctoral fellow at Houston Methodist Cancer Center.

A second patent with Dr. Rao as inventor was issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Multiple commercialization business models are under review, including a possible start-up company, according to the Office of Technology Commercialization at UT Health San Antonio.
-end-
Dr. Rao's research has been supported by the National Cancer Institute, the William and Ella Owens Medical Research Foundation of San Antonio, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, and the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, now called UT Health San Antonio®, is one of the country's leading health sciences universities. With missions of teaching, research, healing and community engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced 35,850 alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields and renewing hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the many ways "We make lives better®," visit http://www.uthscsa.edu.

Stay connected with UT Health San Antonio on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Related Cancer Articles:

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...