The spread of malignant cells around the body, known as metastasis, is the leading cause of mortality in women with breast cancer. Now, a new gene therapy technique being developed by researchers at MIT is showing promise as a way to prevent breast cancer tumors from metastasizing. The treatment, described in a paper published online on September 19, 2016 in the journal Nature Communications, uses microRNAs — small noncoding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression — to control metastasis. The open-access article is titled “Local microRNA Delivery Targets Palladin and Prevents Metastatic Breast Cancer.” The therapy could be used alongside chemotherapy to treat early-stage breast cancer tumors before they spread, according to Natalie Artzi (photo), Ph.D., a Principal Research Scientist at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who led the research in collaboration with Noam Shomron, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor on the faculty of medicine at Tel-Aviv University in Israel. “The idea is that if the cancer is diagnosed early enough, then in addition to treating the primary tumor [with chemotherapy], one could also treat with specific microRNAs, in order to prevent the spread of cancer cells that cause metastasis,” Dr. Artzi says. The regulation of gene expression by microRNAs is known to be important in preventing the spread of cancer cells. Recent studies by the Shomron team in Tel-Aviv have shown that disruption of this regulation, for example by genetic variants known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), can have a significant impact on gene expression levels and lead to an increase in the risk of cancer.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story