By Dr. Daniela Sacco Head of a UIC Comprehensive Cancer Center Cancer and a corresponding author of the study researchers identified a molecule that appears frequently in cancer cells suggesting that controlling levels could limit their cancer growth.

We have identified a molecule that may be a useful therapeutic target for some patients with high-grade solid cancers including breast bladder colon and prostate cancer says Dr. Sacco who conducted the study with postdoctoral fellow Meenakshi Ganganesh. The study is published in Nature Communications.

Besides being highly relevant to patients this molecule provides us with new and understanding open avenues for cancer immunotherapy says the studys lead author Dr. Peter Farkas Professor of Cancer Research at the Montreal Researchers Group Universit de Montral.

Earlier studies by the studys first author Dr. Sacco showed that this molecular package appears in several cancer types of a cell including ovarian bladder pancreatic and melanoma. This new molecule was found in tonsil another common organ of the body that develops inside the womb through exposure and maintained for decades and decades for many years after birth says Dr. Sacco who now directs the UIC Center for Synthetic Biology.

A major obstacle for patients in immunotherapy prophylactic therapies is that patients often do not respond to the treatments because their tumors become resistant to the treatment. The new study instead suggests that in some cases lowering the levels of this molecule may prove to be highly beneficial for patients.

The studys senior author and principal investigator Dr. Michelle Chapineau of UCLA said the finding reinforces the idea that using a combination of therapies that control the expression of a molecule in the cancer cell may lead to longer and more stable survival for patients. A clinical trial that was recently initiated in the intensive-care unit of major US hospitals will study the effectiveness of the combination therapy.

These findings are consistent with Dr. Saccos previous research and suggest that the molecule has several molecular breeding programs or programs of transcription factors and gene regulators involved in regulating gene expression.

In response to this news she adds I really did not expect that this long-term 23-year project would be notable.

A molecular driver.

Long-term studies using animals an established clinical way for determining survival outcomes are most particularly enlightening she says particularly the mice used in the current study. The eternal question is: What is the molecular driver here? she says.

To answer that question Dr. Saccos laboratory which is internationally unique in its use of the rodent as a model organism monitored the function of the molecules transcription factor and gene regulatory factors; they looked at protein expression patterns and the severity of tumors in tissues collected from five types of patients: breast ovarian kidney and colon cancer.

One gene mRNA26 contained more than 20 gene transcripts. We had the impression that mRNA26 was inside every cell of the experimental model but actually it was not she recalls. The study taught us how to identify mRNA26 more deeply based on the proteins it reads. When we analyzed mRNA26 and their expression in the tissue we saw that mRNA26 harbored genes in clumps with anticancer activity.

Dr. Sacco faced longer studies because of the requirement to monitor RNA26 for metastases which she was not able to do. The study also showed that male and female drug-treated mice developed tumors while receiving different types of drugs. Of course aggressive tumors developed more often in the female mice but aggressive tumors in the male mice did not. These results reinforce the important role of translational research in maintaining this novel class of drugs.