Writing a pancreatic cancer blog is interesting. Research questions seem limited only by the level of imagination of researchers. We have addressed in our Pancreatica Blog a small body of research related to MicroRNA (MiRNA) work primarily related to seeking patterns that may aid in the eventual earlier diagnosis or even screening for pancreatic cancer (ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas): Here, Here, Here, and Here.
As discussed, MiRNA (alternatively, miR) are small non-coding RNA strands that appear to be related to genetic and cellular regulation that were discovered primarily in the 1990s. A number of specific miRs tend to be over-expressed in pancreatic cancer, and indeed in a number of tumor types.
Jiao and colleagues primarily from London medical institutions but also from Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, published the findings of their study on MiRs in regard to their actions in the January 2014 issue of the journal Gastroenterology. The researchers studied pancreatic cancer cell lines, mice, and tumor tissue samples from 91 human subjects diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The researchers used bioinformatics techniques to seek data from MiR and Messenger RNA profiles of the pancreatic cancer cell lines and tissue samples. They identified a pattern – that three miRs (miR 21, miR23A, and miR27A) appear to act in a synergistic manner to inhibit a nexus of tumor suppressor genes including NEDD4L, BTG2, and PDCD4. The artificial inhibition by the researchers of these three miRs both with pancreatic cancer cell lines and in pancreatic tumors in mice showed reduced tumor cell growth and reduced tumor growth, respectively. Additionally, the authors examined the human pancreatic cancer tumor samples – quantifying levels of miR 21, miR23A, and miR27A. They then reviewed the clinical course of the patients under study. The results demonstrated that the clinical course of the patients whose tumors showed HIGH levels of the three miRs was associated with SHORTER survival duration after pancreatic cancer tumor resection.
This is a rather interesting study. The findings of course need to be replicated. It they hold, new avenues of treatment options for pancreatic cancer may arise. The discovery of MicroRNA is a gift that keeps on giving.
Dale O’Brien, MD