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A MicroRNA Elevated in Pancreatic Cancer Patients May Have Diagnostic Potential

By Labmedica International staff writers
Posted on 20 Nov 2013
A microRNA (miRNA) was identified that is present at high levels in the blood of most pancreatic cancer patients and may serve as a diagnostic marker and an indicator of the disease’s aggressiveness.

Statistics from the [US] National Cancer Institute (Bethesda, MD, USA) show that only about 6% of people with pancreatic cancer survive more than five years after diagnosis. In 2013 an estimated 45,220 new cases of pancreatic cancer are expected to be diagnosed with more than 38,460 of the cases being fatal.

MiRNAs are snippets of about 20 nucleotides that block gene expression by attaching to molecules of messenger RNA (mRNA) in a fashion that prevents them from transmitting the protein synthesizing instructions they had received from the DNA.

Investigators at Indiana University (Indianapolis, USA) determined miRNA levels in patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). They found that plasma levels of miR-10b were significantly increased in PDAC patients by comparison with normal controls. Furthermore, increased miR-10b expression in PDAC cells was a marker for disease aggressiveness.

MiR-10b promoted the invasion and growth of pancreatic cancer cells by modulating signaling and gene expression. In particular, miR-10b facilitated abnormal signaling by enhancing EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) activity.

Senior author Dr. Murray Korc, professor of cancer research at Indiana University, said, "The presence of miR-10b is like a souped-up car that is more like a tank because of the enhancements. So, for those people with miR-10b, their pancreatic cancer is especially aggressive. And pancreatic cancer is already an aggressive disease without that molecule. Patients with high levels of miR-10b resist chemotherapy more and their disease returns sooner after treatment than those without the molecule."

The study was published in the October 7, 2013, online edition of the journal Oncogene.

Related Links:

[US] National Cancer Institute
Indiana University



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