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Warning Sign: Genetic fragments tag cancer severity

A tiny piece of RNA can spell big trouble for some colon cancer patients.

Colon cancer patients who have high levels of a microRNA called miR-21 in their tumors don't respond well to standard chemotherapy and have poor prognoses, a new study shows.

MicroRNAs are short pieces of genetic material that help regulate the production of proteins from the recipes encoded in genes. MicroRNAs latch on to protein-coding messages, usually disrupting protein production. About 5 years ago, researchers discovered that disturbances in microRNA levels are associated with cancer.

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