PHOENIX, Ariz. — 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 today by Scottsdale Healthcare and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).
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 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, MicroRNA-328 is associated with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) brain metastasis and mediates NSCLC migration, was published online today (March 31, 2011) by 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. “The ability to identify patients at risk for developing brain metastasis may lead to new prophylactic intervention that may mitigate morbidity and mortality.”
Brain metastasis can cause severe side effects. Currently, brain metastasis is often identified on imaging scans when a lung cancer patient develops unexplained neurological symptoms. Then treatment often includes either surgery and/or radiation. There are no measures in place today to minimize risk. By using microRNA-328 as a biomarker, physicians might one day be able to identify patients most likely to benefit from earlier treatments such as prophylactic cranial irradiation, a strategy used in another type of lung cancer called small cell lung cancer.
The study used tumor specimens from Scottsdale Healthcare and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Over-expression of microRNA-328 resulted in an increase in cancer cell migration, the study said.
“The elevated expression of microRNA-328 in both thoracic and brain NSCLC samples suggests this microRNA may be involved in ‘brain-seeking’ metastatic potential,” said Dr. Shilpi Arora, staff scientist at TGen and the paper’s first author.
The study was funded by the IBIS Foundation of Arizona, the TGen Foundation, the Scottsdale Healthcare Foundation, and in part by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences.
Also contributing to this study were: Scottsdale Medical Imaging, the Iowa Spine and Brain Institute, ASU’s School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering.
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About the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare
The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare offers diagnosis, treatment, research, prevention and support in its facilities at the Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center, attracting patients from across Arizona and the U.S. Groundbreaking cancer research is conducted through its Scottsdale Healthcare Research Institute in collaboration with TGen and leading universities. Scottsdale Healthcare is the not-for-profit parent organization of the Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center, Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center and Scottsdale Healthcare Thompson Peak Hospital, Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, Scottsdale Healthcare Research Institute and Scottsdale Healthcare Foundation. For additional information, please visit www.shc.org.
Keith Jones, Director of Public Relations
Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org.
TGen Senior Science Writer