A study led by the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute found that when the amount of a molecule called microRNA-122 (miR-122) that regulates liver-cell metabolism goes down, activity that promotes cancer in the liver increases.
This finding, which was reported in the journal Molecular Cell, could lead to doctors finding sufficient ways to predict the survival of liver cancer patients, an Ohio State release said. This finding may also determine whether miR-122 should be developed into a drug to treat cancer.
After identifying over 11,000 miR-122 binding sites in a mouse model, researchers found that the molecule targets approximately 4,000 genes in human, 965 of which are shared with mice, the release said. Among those shared genes, most are highly expressed in the tumor tissue that comes from hapatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a common form of liver cancer. A decrease in miR-122 in HCC will cause an increase in cancer-related genes, the release said.
“Our goal is to understand how miR-122 regulates liver metabolism and suppresses cancer development, and to identify common targets in humans and mice that may be involved in HCC development,” Kalpana Ghoshal, co-principal investigator OSUCCC – James researcher and associate professor of pathology, said in the release. “That knowledge is critical for determining whether this molecule should be developed as a possible therapeutic agent for liver cancer.”