A team of researchers developed a new treatment to prevent the spread of breast cancer. A form of gene therapy can reduce or even stop the metastasis of breast cancer cells. The details are in a paper that was just published in the journal Nature Communications.
Metastasis is the movement and spread of cancer cells. If researchers could stop breast cancer from metastasizing, the disease would become much easier to treat. MicroRNAs, tiny segments of noncoding RNA, regulate the expression of genes. Previous studies have already shown that microRNAs play a role in metastasis by controlling genes involved in the spread of cancer cells.
A research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology first identified potential microRNA segments that could affect the metastasis of breast cancer cells. The team conducted a large bioinformatics analysis, comparing datasets from previous studies. The researchers narrowed the data down to two microRNAs, miR-96 and miR-182. When both are disrupted, breast cancer cells are able to metastasize. Further analysis revealed that miR-96 and miR-182 control the expression of a protein called Palladin. Previous research has shown that Palladin plays a large role in the metastasis of breast cancer. When the team treated cells with extra miR-96 and miR-182, Palladin levels dropped and the cancer cells were unable to spread.
The researchers designed a delivery system for adding the microRNA segments to living animals. They combined the microRNAs with special nanoparticles and embedded them into a hydrogel scaffold. The design allowed for a sustained release of miR-96 and miR-182. When mice were treated using this method, breast cancer tumors were less likely to metastasize. When combined with an anti-cancer drug called cisplatin, the tumors shrunk and stopped growing.
MicroRNAs are good candidates for new cancer treatments. Dosing mice with miR-96 and miR-182 was effective in preventing breast cancer metastasis, especially when combined with a chemotherapy drug. The team is planning to continue their research with other models.
Avital Gilam et al. Local microRNA delivery targets Palladin and prevents metastatic breast cancer. Nature Communications (2016).