Note in Science page
Created Sep 07 10, Updated Sep 07 10 17:13
Fighting cancer in a mutation-specific manner with small conditional RNAs  go to comments

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), are developing a mutation specific treatment for cancer relying on synthetic small RNAs that will “stick” specifically to mutated RNAs in cancer cells and trigger cell auto-destruction.
Will this treatment work in patients? won’t it select cancer cells that lack any self destruction response? (and therefore are resistant to this treatment): to be determined, but this represents a step in the right direction as the “ultimate” – specific cancer treatment should be: kill cells if – and only if – they had been “diagnosed” with a certain mutation, leaving the rest of the organism unharmed.

small conditional RNAs (light and dark blue) bind to a targeted RNA cancer mutation (orange and green), triggering self-assembly of a long double-stranded RNA polymer that activates an innate immune response (gray turns to red) leading to cell death. [from physorg.com]

image courtesy of Suvir Venkataraman, William M. Clemons, Jr. and Niles A. Pierce (Caltech)

This approach effectively eliminates lab-grown human brain, prostate and bone cancer cells in a mutation-specific manner. Future experiments will determine whether the treatment is effective in patients.

The first small RNA will open up if – and only if – it finds the cancer mutation. A positive “diagnosis” exposes a signal that was previously hidden within the small RNA. Once this small RNA is open, a second small RNA binds to it, setting off a chain reaction in which these RNA molecules continue to combine to form a longer chain. The length of the chain is an important part of the “treatment”. Longer chains trick the cell into thinking it has been invaded by a virus, tripping a self-destruct response.

physorg.com article
sciencedaily article

slated to appear online the week of September 6 2010 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)


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