Tiny molecule has big effect in childhood brain tumor studies

Manjeet Rao, Ph.D., UT Health San Antonio
Manjeet Rao, Ph.D., UT Health San Antonio

Sometimes small things make the biggest differences.

A new study by UT Health San Antonio researchers found that a molecule thousands of times smaller than a gene is able to kill medulloblastoma, the most common childhood brain cancer.

This tiny molecule, named MiR-584-5p, is quite efficient in its action. MiR-584-5p sensitizes the cancer to chemotherapy and radiation, making it plausible to treat the tumors with one-tenth the dose that is currently required, said study senior author Manjeet Rao, Ph.D., associate professor of cell systems and anatomy at UT Health San Antonio and a member of the university’s Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute.

“Currently we barrage the brain with radiation and chemo, and patients have poor quality of life,” Dr. Rao said. “Using this molecule, we could dial down those therapies considerably, by 90 percent. That’s exciting.”

MiR-584-5p is at very low levels or absent altogether in medulloblastoma. Increasing it to the amount found in healthy cells robs the cancer of mechanisms it uses to survive, studies show. “This can serve as a potent therapeutic for treating cancer,” Dr. Rao said.

The journal Nature Communications published the findings Oct. 31.

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Article categories: Long School of Medicine, My UT Health, Research