RNA interferes with cancer-cell growth

To curb the growth of cancer cells, scientists are silencing genes by introducing small strands of RNA.

This approach, known as RNA interference (RNAi), has become a popular way for investigators to study the function of genes (SN: 1/15/00, p. 36: For geneticists, interference becomes an asset). By adding to cells an RNA strand corresponding to the DNA of a gene, biologists effectively shut down that gene. Recently, researchers showed that RNAi can turn off viral genes within infected cells and thus thwart viruses, including the AIDS virus (SN: 8/10/02, p. 93: Lab tool may spawn new antiviral drugs).

Two research groups have now tested RNAi against cancer. In test-tube experiments reported in the Sept. 5 Oncogene, Ming Jiang and Jo Milner of the University of York in England use the approach to thwart tumor-cell growth generated by proteins from a human papilloma virus. When RNAi silenced two viral genes, the tumor cells stopped proliferating.

In the September Cancer Cell, a research team headed by Reuven Agami of the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam reports using RNAi to deactivate the cancer-causing mutant version of a gene known as Ras.


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