From Washington, D.C., at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research
By analyzing snippets of genetic material called microRNAs in the intestinal cells of people with colorectal cancer, researchers have devised a technique that might reveal which cancers are at the highest risk of recurrence. The finding could also open the way for new drugs targeting aberrant microRNAs that contribute to the malignancy.
Certain genes carry the blueprints for microRNAs. The scientists compared the activity pattern of 248 such genes in healthy colon tissue with those in cancerous tissue. The scan revealed 16 of these microRNA genes whose behavior was different in the two tissue categories.
The researchers then studied the fast-growing cells that line the colon and that are normally sloughed off and replaced every 5 days or so. These cells are generated in pockets embedded in the lining of the colon called crypts, says Bruce Boman, a physician and geneticist