MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are abundant small noncoding RNAs that play important regulatory roles at the post-transcriptional level by binding to the 3’ untranslated region (3’UTR) of messenger RNAs and blocking either their translation or initiating their degradation. MiRNAs are predicted to regulate over 50% of human genes including those involved in crucial biologic processes such as proliferation, differentiation, development, and apoptosis.
A CU research team led by Dr. Glen J. Weiss and Dr. Lynne Bemis have identified and corroborated regulation of EGFR by miRNAs in lung cancer cell lines. Translating these findings, the team developed a quantitative method of measuring copy number of specific miRNA’s that regulate EGFR. A frequent occurrence, the deletion of these specific miRNA loci is associated with survival and response to EGFR-TKI therapy. In fact, these researchers have found that the loss of these specific miRNA’s correlate significantly better to patient response for EGFR-TKI therapy than both mutation analysis and FISH, the two predominant methods employed today. Beyond the exciting conclusion that this technology may be used as a more effective diagnostic to select responsive patients, two therapeutic approaches that build upon this science are in development.
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