Conducting genetic profiles using microRNA can help doctors predict which lung cancer patients are likely to also develop brain metastasis (BM), according to a study published by Scottsdale Healthcare and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and collaborating institutions. The study identified microRNA-328 as a potential therapeutic target because of its association with the spread of cancer to the brain in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). NSCLC makes up 88 percent of the 222,000 annual U.S. cases of lung cancer, which is by far the most common of all cancers among Americans. "This is one of the first studies using microRNA to identify lung cancer patients at risk for developing or likely to have brain metastasis," said Dr. Glen Weiss, the paper's senior author and Director of Thoracic Oncology at TGen Clinical Research Services (TCRS) at Scottsdale Healthcare. TCRS is a partnership between TGen and Scottsdale Healthcare that helps bring new therapies quickly to patients at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center in Scottsdale. The paper was published online on March 29, 2011, in the International Journal of Cancer. MicroRNAs are single-stranded RNA molecules that regulate how genes and proteins control cellular development. Because microRNAs are so resilient, they are relatively easy to detect in tumor tissue and blood, which is often a limitation for other biomarkers. In addition, one microRNA can regulate hundreds of genes. "Previous efforts to characterize patients that will develop brain metastasis have been fairly disappointing," said Dr. Weiss. BM can cause neurologic, cognitive, and emotional difficulties.
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