Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
RNAi
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Turn out the Light: 'Switch' Determines Cancer Cell Fate

Published: Friday, May 03, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, May 03, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Like picking a career or a movie, cells have to make decisions – and cancer results from cells making wrong decisions.

At the cellular level, wrong decisions can be made right. Cornell engineers with clinicians at Weill Cornell Medical College have discovered that colon cancer stem cells, a particularly malignant population of cancer cells, are able to switch between the decision to proliferate or to remain constant – and this “switch” is controlled by a little-studied molecule called microRNA.

The research, published online May 2 in the journal Cell Stem Cell, was led by senior author Xiling Shen, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, with clinician Steven M. Lipkin, associate professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. The multidisciplinary work involves engineers, biologists and doctors.

Cancer stem cells live in tumors and share characteristics of regular stem cells – they “decide” what to become. In early stage, noninvasive tumors, say the researchers, cancer stem cells are biased toward asymmetric division – meaning the population of cancer stem cells remains constant. But in more malignant, late-stage tumors, these cells tend to promote symmetric division, or fast proliferation, by making identical copies of themselves, which leads to invasion and metastasis, or spread of cancer cells.

MicroRNA, known as a non-coding RNA, is a relatively understudied molecule because unlike regular messenger RNA, it doesn’t make proteins, and therefore, its importance in biological functions has not been well characterized.

“MicroRNA, which is usually thought to be dispensable in normal tissue, has been largely overlooked in its role in determining cancer outcomes,” Shen said.

Using clinically relevant samples from colon cancer patients at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center who provided permission, the team conducted experiments to determine a link between the presence of a microRNA called miR-34a and tumor size, metastatic potential and chemoresistance in cancer patients.

They discovered that microRNA acts as a sharp on-off switch that controls the mode of division of colon cancer stem cells, symmetric or asymmetric, in a mechanism distinct from protein regulators.
By changing the number of binding sites of microRNA in a given sample, the dynamics of the system can be tuned to be sharp or gradual – lots of microRNA binding sites make the switch very sharp; fewer make the switch more gradual.

By studying how microRNA affects cancer in real patient tumors, the researchers hypothesize that late-stage tumors try to shut down the switching mechanism so that cells are free to produce even more cancer stem cells. This is why therapies that might arise from this discovery would need to be “upstream” of the microRNA binding – that is, it’s better to control the switching at the microRNA level rather than just increasing the population of microRNA later, when the cancer has already spread.

Shen, a trained electrical engineer, confesses a longtime fascination with the concept of how cells make decisions – the classical example being stem cells, which must decide whether and when to differentiate into myriad other types of cells and how to spatially allocate them. But what controls this process? Shen likes to think of cells as circuits – how they are wired determines not only their decision-making prowess, but also how robust those decisions are.

The study, “A MicroRNA miR-34a Regulated Bimodal Switch Targets Notch in Colon Cancer Stem Cells,” was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Cornell Nanobiotechnology Center, Cornell Stem Cell Program and a gift from philanthropist Matthew Bell.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Tumor-suppressing Gene Lends Insight to Cancer Treatment
Researchers have found that delicate replication process derails if a gene named PTEN has mutated or is absent.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Computer Model Reveals Cancer's Energy Source
Findings focused on the energy-making process in cancer cells known as the Warburg Effect.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
For Cancer Patients, Sugar-Coated Cells are Deadly
Paszek’s lab will focus on developing high-resolution microscopy to further study cell membrane-related cancer mechanisms.
Friday, June 27, 2014
Gold-Plated Nano-Bits Find, Destroy Cancer Cells
Scientists have merged tiny gold and iron oxide particles, then added antibody guides to steer them through the bloodstream toward colorectal cancer cells.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Genetic Switches Play Big Role in Human Evolution
Study offers further proof that the divergence of humans from chimpanzees was profoundly influenced by mutations to DNA sequences.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Nano Compartments May Aid Drug Delivery, Catalyst Design
Spongelike nanoparticles whose pores can be filled with drugs offer the promise of drug delivery to specific targets in the body, avoiding unpleasant side effects.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Scientists Develop World's Smallest Drug Deliverer
Cornell researchers have created a pore in “Cornell Dots” – brightly glowing nanoparticles nicknamed C-Dots – that can carry medicine.
Friday, April 12, 2013
DNA Editor Named Runner-up Breakthrough of 2012
A discovery that allows life scientists to precisely edit genomes for everything from crop and livestock improvement to human gene and cell therapy was named runner-up for Science magazine's 2012 Breakthrough of the Year.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Organic Metamaterial Flows like a Liquid, Remembers its Shape
A bit reminiscent of the Terminator T-1000, a new material created by Cornell researchers is so soft that it can flow like a liquid and then, strangely, return to its original shape.
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Study: How Cells form 'Trash Bags' for Recycling Waste
A class of membrane-sculpting proteins create vesicles that carry old and damaged proteins from the surface of cellular compartments into internal recycling plants where the waste is degraded and components are reused.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Metastatic 'Switch' Sheds New Light on Colon Cancer
What kills cancer patients often isn't the primary tumor; it's when the tumor metastasizes - or spreads the cancer to other areas of the body.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The Force is with us: GEDI Chip Sorts Prostate Cancer Cells
Geometrically Enhanced Differential Immunocapture chip identify and collect cancer cells from a patient's bloodstream.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Some Stem Cells Can Trigger Tumors
When in contact with even trace amounts of cancer cells, stem cells can create a microenvironment suitable for more tumors to grow.
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Scientific News
Microscopic Fish are 3D-Printed to do More Than Swim
Researchers demonstrate a novel method to build microscopic robots with complex shapes and functionalities.
Inciting an Immune Attack on Cancer Cells
A new minimally invasive vaccine that combines cancer cells and immune-enhancing factors could be used clinically to launch a destructive attack on tumors.
Reprogramming Cancer Cells
Researchers on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus have discovered a way to potentially reprogram cancer cells back to normalcy.
New Strategy for Combating Adenoviruses
Using an animal model they developed, Saint Louis University and Utah State university researchers have identified a strategy that could keep a common group of viruses called adenoviruses from replicating and causing sickness in humans.
Surprising Mechanism Behind Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Uncovered
Now, scientists at TSRI have discovered that the important human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, develops resistance to this drug by “switching on” a previously uncharacterized set of genes.
Fat in the Family?
Study could lead to therapeutics that boost metabolism.
Imaging Software Could Speed Up Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Researchers use high speed optical microscopy of intact breast tissue specimens to analyze breast tissue.
A Metabolic Master Switch Underlying Human Obesity
Researchers find pathway that controls metabolism by prompting fat cells to store or burn fat.
Synthetic DNA Vaccine Against MERS Shows Promise
A novel synthetic DNA vaccine can, for the first time, induce protective immunity against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in animal species.
How Small RNA Helps Form Memories
In a new study, a team of scientists at Scripps Florida has found that a type of genetic material called "microRNA" (miRNA) plays surprisingly different roles in the formation of memory in animal models.
SELECTBIO

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!