Northwestern Medicine scientists have identified a small RNA molecule called miR-182 that can suppress cancer-causing genes in mice with glioblastoma mulitforme (GBM), a deadly and incurable type of brain tumor.

 

While standard chemotherapy drugs damage DNA to stop cancer cells from reproducing, the new method stops the source that creates those cancer cells: genes that are overexpressing certain proteins.


“Our study identified miR-182 as a glioblastoma tumor suppressor that reduces the expression of several oncogenes that promote cancer development,” said Alexander Stegh, senior author of the study and an assistant professor in the Ken and Ruth Davee department of neurology and of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.


The study, published April 2 in Genes and Development, used a nanostructure called spherical nucleic acids (SNAs) to safely deliver miR-182 across the blood-brain barrier to reach tumor cells. There it directly targeted multiple oncogenes at once, increasing cancer cell death and reducing cancer cell growth. SNAs are composed of multiple strands of DNA and RNA densely arranged around a nanoparticle center.


“We demonstrate a more specific, more personalized approach to therapy,” Stegh said. “SNAs are a very promising platform to silence the particular genes that drive or contribute to cancer progression in individual patients.”


There are 16,000 new cases of the deadly brain tumor reported in the US every year. Patients have a very poor prognosis, with median survival of just 14 to 16 months.


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