Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Stem Cells, Cellular Therapy & Biobanking
>
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 2,400+ 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

Physicists Crack Science of Ice Formation
Salt - and just about anything else that dissolves in water, which is called a solute - lowers water's melting point, which is why it's useful for de-icing roads.
Thursday, February 28, 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
Puppy Born from Frozen Embryo Fetches Good News
Breakthrough shows hope for endangered canids.
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
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
Access Denied: Leukemia Thwarted by Cutting Off Link to Environmental Support
A new study reveals a protein’s critical – and previously unknown -- role in the development and progression of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a fast-growing and extremely difficult-to-treat blood cancer.
New Weapon in the Fight Against Blood Cancer
This strategy, which uses patients’ own immune cells, genetically engineered to target tumors, has shown significant success against multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells that is largely incurable.
Scientists Create CRISPR/Cas9 Knock-In Mutations in Human T Cells
In a project spearheaded by investigators at UC San Francisco, scientists have devised a new strategy to precisely modify human T cells using the genome-editing system known as CRISPR/Cas9.
Zebrafish Reveal Drugs that may Improve Bone Marrow Transplant
Compounds boost stem cell engraftment; could allow more matches for patients with cancer and blood diseases.
New Material Forges the Way for 'Stem Cell Factories'
Researchers have discovered the first fully synthetic substrate with potential to grow billions of stem cells. The researchcould forge the way for the creation of 'stem cell factories' - the mass production of human embryonic (pluripotent) stem cells.
Liver Regrown from Stem Cells
Scientists have repaired a damaged liver in a mouse by transplanting stem cells grown in the laboratory.
Immunotherapy Shows Promise for Myeloma
A strategy, which uses patients’ own immune cells, genetically engineered to target tumors, has shown significant success against multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells that is largely incurable.
'Google Maps' for the Body
Scientists have revealed research that uses previously top-secret technology to zoom through the human body down to the level of a single cell that could be a game-changer for medicine.
Adaptimmune's Novel Cancer Therapeutics Show Positive Clinical Trial Results
The company has announced that positive data from its Phase I/II study of its affinity enhanced T-cell receptor (TCR) therapeutic targeting the NY-ESO-1 cancer antigen in patients with multiple myeloma has been published.
Stem Cells Rescue Patients from Mitochondrial Disease
A study led by OHSU researchers has revealed a critical first step in developing a new gene and stem cell regenerative technique for treating patients with mitochondrial disease.
Skyscraper Banner

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
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!