Scientists introduce a new way of identifying key cancer genes

January 15, 2016

"The molecules were always considered individually and, generally, unrelated to each other, because we did not know much about how miRNAs cooperate," Volinia notes. "In this study we show that key cancer genes can be identified on the basis of their relationships, rather than on their overactivity or loss."

To complete this study, the researchers studied miRNA expression profiles in 3,300 human cancer samples and 1,100 healthy tissue samples. These samples represented 50 different normal tissues and 51 cancer types, 31 of which were solid tumors and 20 leukemias and lymphomas.

"The size of our database enabled us to analyze coordinated miRNA activities and to build miRNA networks for different solid tumors and leukemias," Croce says.

In lung cancer, for example, the study mapped a subnetwork of 16 miRNAs plus eight groups of two or six miRNAs that are detached from the larger subnet. Lung cancer and other solid tumors showed more of these detached groups than did leukemias.

"Our findings suggest that we should reconsidered miRNA activity in cancer as the cooperative work of small groups of rebellious genes," Volina says.

Source: Ohio State University Medical Center