Missing microRNA Could be Leading Cause of Pancreatic Cancer

Restoration of miR-29 in cancer stromal cells helped decrease cancer growth.

Restoration of miR-29 in cancer stromal cells helped decrease cancer growth.

Replacing microRNA in stromal cells could be a crucial element in treating pancreatic cancer.

In a study conducted by Janaiah Kota, Ph.D, of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, the restoration of miR-29 in pancreatic cancer stromal cells helped to reduce cancer cell growth.

The study found that cancerous pancreases, compared with normal ones, are missing the small non-coding RNA miR-29 in their stromal cells. In pancreatic cancer, stromal cells overproduce fibrotic proteins, which creates a thick fiber around the cancer cell. This subsequently renders some treatments, like chemotherapy, ineffective.

Kota's team expected that overexpressing miR-29 in stromal cells would merely restore normal function; instead, replacing miR-29 resulted in reduced cancer growth in the pancreas as well.

Pancreatic cancer is expected to lead to over 40,000 deaths in 2015. It is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, with only 7% of patients surviving more than five years after diagnosis.

"This is a novel approach that has the potential to overcome the problems associated with current anti-stromal drugs and that could lead to improved therapeutic strategies, enhanced drug delivery to the tumor bed, and, in the future, improved patient survival," said Murray Korc, M.D., the Myles Brand Professor of Cancer Research at the IU School of Medicine and a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center.

Further studies are being conducted on miR-29, to understand why its expression in stromal cells leads to reduction in cancer growth.

This study was originally published in Scientific Reports in 2015.