Micro RNAs in Circulating Exosomes May Provide Prognostic Tool for Multiple Myeloma

The "molecular mail" sent by multiple myeloma cells provides clues as to how well patients with the disease are likely to respond to treatment, according to a study being presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The findings, presented in poster form on December 6, 2014, may ultimately guide doctors in deciding which therapies are best for individual patients with multiple myeloma, the study authors say. The study focused on exosomes (see image), tiny sacs that cells release into the bloodstream as a way of communicating with other cells. The exosomes contain microRNA molecules, fragments of RNA that help control the activity of genes. The type of microRNA molecule in each exosome holds a specific message - an order to be conveyed to another cell. In the study, researchers isolated exosomes from the blood of 10 patients with multiple myeloma and five healthy volunteers, and extracted the microRNA molecules. They found the two groups harbored sharp differences in the levels of many microRNAs. The researchers then tested for 24 specific types of microRNAs in blood samples from 112 multiple myeloma patients who were participating in a French clinical trial of a new drug. By tracking the results against several years of patients' health data, they explored whether high or low levels of any of these microRNAs were associated with a particularly good or bad prognosis. They found that patients with low amounts of two microRNAs - known as let-7e and 106b/25 - survived for less time before their disease began to worsen than did the other patients.
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