Nature Medicine: Researchers at University of California Identify Orphan Non-Coding RNA as a Promoter of Breast Cancer Metastasis

In a systematic search to identify breast-cancer-specific small non-coding RNAs, a group of researchers has discovered a novel microRNA found to be a promoter of breast cancer metastasis.

They focused on this specific set of RNAs to search for a possible source of regulators capable of moderating disease pathways. They discovered 201 previously unknown small RNAs expressed solely in breast cancer cells and not found in mammary epithelial cells. The researchers have collectively coined these RNAs as orphan noncoding RNAs (oncRNAs). One oncRNA was specifically found to promote metastasis of breast cancer by acting as a decoy for the RISC complex in breast cancer cells. The researchers named this oncRNA, T3p. T3p exerts its pro-metastatic effects by inhibiting the activity of the RISC complex and increasing the expression of two pro-metastatic genes, NUPR1 and PANX2. It was determined that T3p is strongly associated with breast cancer progression in both cell line models and clinical sample sets. In addition, they detected T3p in extracellular vesicles which have originated from breast cancer cells. Given that extracellular oncRNAs are secreted by cancer cells, they could be useful in identifying the underlying tumor present in patient samples.

The authors concluded that T3p, among the other potential oncRNAs, could become a novel therapeutic target selective to breast cancer cells. Furthermore they stated that oncRNA profiling will offer opportunity to obtain a real-time view of the health status of cancer patients through non-invasive liquid biopsy samples.

Find the link to the abstract in Nature here:

Fish, L., Zhang, S., Johnny, X. Y., Culbertson, B., Zhou, A. Y., Goga, A., & Goodarzi, H. (2018). Cancer cells exploit an orphan RNA to drive metastatic progression. Nature medicine24(11), 1743.

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