While they may be small in size, a family of tiny molecules called microRNAs could potentially play a large role in the process of cancer metastasis, or the spread of cancer from one area of the body to another.
A team of researchers from The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) and Princeton University, along with European colleagues, have revealed that miR-200s play a paradoxical role in the development of metastatic cancer. On the one hand, these microRNAs slow down the initial escape of cells from the primary breast tumor into blood circulation, impeding the spread of cancer at that point in the process. However when tumor cells do escape and then seek to colonize new organs such as the lungs, the same miR-200s facilitate that process. The study is described in the online edition of Nature Medicine that is out today. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
The study has been recognized as a paradigm-shifting discovery in the field of metastasis research. Dr. Erik Thompson, Professor of Surgery at the St. Vincent’s Institute and University of Melbourne and President of the International Metastasis Research Society, wrote in an accompanying commentary in Nature Medicine that “this work takes several anomalies in our current understanding of EMT, builds a clinical context around them and provides a new paradigm that the miR-200 status in the original primary tumor, in a manner which exceeds E-cadherin expression and EMT status, predisposes the cancer to successful metastasis.”
This study was part-funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford and the author team included Prof Adrian Hill from the University of Oxford. For the full article click here.