Using Millions of Years of Cell Evolution in the Fight Against Cancer

ScienceBlog (Aug. 7, 2012)

As the medical community continues to make positive strides in personalized cancer therapy, scientists know some dead ends are unavoidable. Drugs that target specific genes in cancerous cells are effective, but not all proteins are targetable. In fact, it has been estimated that as few as 10 to 15 percent of human proteins are potentially targetable by drugs. For this reason, Georgia Tech researchers are focusing on ways to fight cancer by attacking defective genes before they are able to make proteins.

Professor John McDonald is studying micro RNAs (miRNAs), a class of small RNAs that interact with messenger RNAs (mRNAs) that have been linked to a number of diseases, including cancer. McDonald’s lab placed two different miRNAs (MiR-7 and MiR-128) into ovarian cancer cells and watched how they affected the gene system. The findings are published in the current edition of the journal BMC Medical Genomics.

“Each inserted miRNA created hundreds of thousands of gene expression changes, but only about 20 percent of them were caused by direct interactions with mRNAs,” said McDonald. “The majority of the changes were indirect – they occurred downstream and were consequences of the initial reactions.” (full story..)