MicroRNA Could Be a Significant Part of Ovarian Cancer Development

Research may lead to new treatments for ovarian cancer.

A recent study found that the role of MicroRNA in cancer development is more substantial than previously thought. Researchers believe this finding could pave the way for new therapies for aggressive ovarian cancer.

"MicroRNAs appear to have evolved to regulate cellular functions through having many different targets, and were thought to function mainly through down regulating the levels or functions of messenger RNA," said Gordon Mills, PhD. "Remarkably, this study shows that microRNAs can also up regulate the expression of key cancer genes directly. This suggests that the mechanisms by which microRNAs regulate cellular function are much broader than was generally accepted."

Researchers in the study, published in Cell Reports, used data from The Cancer Genome Atlas to focus on the biochemical interplay between transcription factor STAT3 and microRNA miR551b. High levels of STAT3 have been previously associated with poor outcomes in ovarian cancer patients.

Researchers discovered that miR551b is able to impact STAT3 protein levels that can contribute to cell death resistance and increased cancer cell proliferation.

"The study supports the concept that targeting miR551b expression could block STAT3 activity, and prove useful for treating ovarian cancers," Dr Mills said. "We believe these findings warrant further evaluation of anti-miR therapies."

Researchers also treated mice with anti-miR551b therapy twice weekly for 1 month, and found an extremely significant decrease in tumor growth.

"Our results demonstrate the therapeutic potential of anti-miR551b in treating ovarian cancers with high levels of miR551b," Dr Mills concluded. "Future studies will need to examine the activity of combination therapy of anti-miR551b with other therapeutic interventions."