Breakthrough could lead to new targets for cancer therapies

Last Updated: Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 12:17

Washington: Scientists have identified a key genetic switch linked to the development, progression and outcome of cancer, a finding that may lead to new targets for cancer therapies.

The switch, a string of nucleotides dubbed a long non-coding RNA (lncRNA), does not code for proteins like regular RNA. Instead, the scientists found, this particular lncRNA acts as an on/off switch for a key gene whose excessive activity is tied to inflammation and cancer, COX-2.

The COX-2 gene mediates inflammation, which in most cases helps our bodies eliminate pathogens and damaged cells. But inflammation also has a dark side: it aids growth and spread of tumors in the early stages of cancer. By learning more about how COX-2 is affected, scientists may be able to provide a potential target for future cancer treatment.

Senior author Beverly Emerson, a professor in Salk's Regulatory Biology Laboratory and holder of the Edwin K. Hunter Chair, said deciphering the mechanism of COX-2 gene regulation is of great clinical interest.

She said COX-2 is instrumental in the development of several types of cancer, including colon, breast and prostate cancer. Strategies that specifically modulate COX-2 activity could be an attractive treatment approach.

Using human mammary epithelial cells, Emerson and Michal Krawczyk , a senior scientist in Salk's Regulatory Biology Laboratory, discovered that an lncRNA called PACER (p50-associated COX-2 extragenic RNA) teams up with molecules that change the activity of the COX-2 gene.

The scientists demonstrated that PACER kicks a molecule called p50 off of the COX-2 gene, causing COX-2 to go into overdrive. This is the first time scientists have shown that non-coding RNAs must be activated in order to squelch the activity of p50, a gene repressor. In turn, says Krawczyk, blocking p50 promotes the assembly of molecular activators of gene expression, which ramp up COX-2 activity.

The findings have been published online in the journal eLife.


Download the all new Zee News app for Android and iOS to stay up to date with latest headlines and news stories in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, Business and much more from India and around the world.

First Published: Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 12:17

More from zeenews

comments powered by Disqus