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Archive - Apr 1, 2011

MicroRNA Marker for Lung Cancer Metastasis to Brain

Conducting genetic profiles using microRNA can help doctors predict which lung cancer patients are likely to also develop brain metastasis (BM), according to a study published by Scottsdale Healthcare and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and collaborating institutions. The study identified microRNA-328 as a potential therapeutic target because of its association with the spread of cancer to the brain in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). NSCLC makes up 88 percent of the 222,000 annual U.S. cases of lung cancer, which is by far the most common of all cancers among Americans. "This is one of the first studies using microRNA to identify lung cancer patients at risk for developing or likely to have brain metastasis," said Dr. Glen Weiss, the paper's senior author and Director of Thoracic Oncology at TGen Clinical Research Services (TCRS) at Scottsdale Healthcare. TCRS is a partnership between TGen and Scottsdale Healthcare that helps bring new therapies quickly to patients at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center in Scottsdale. The paper was published online on March 29, 2011, in the International Journal of Cancer. MicroRNAs are single-stranded RNA molecules that regulate how genes and proteins control cellular development. Because microRNAs are so resilient, they are relatively easy to detect in tumor tissue and blood, which is often a limitation for other biomarkers. In addition, one microRNA can regulate hundreds of genes. "Previous efforts to characterize patients that will develop brain metastasis have been fairly disappointing," said Dr. Weiss. BM can cause neurologic, cognitive, and emotional difficulties.

Studies Focus on Invasive Ladybug

A University of Georgia researcher studying invasive ladybugs has developed new models that help explain how these insects have spread so quickly and their potential impacts on native species. In recent years, some people have noticed swarms of ladybugs massing in the fall, even infesting their homes. These are Asian lady beetles, insects native to eastern Asia, introduced to the U.S. as a biocontrol for aphids and they have since spread throughout the country and into Canada. When he found the beetles in his own home, Assistant Research Scientist Dr. Richard Hall, of the UGA Odum School of Ecology, was motivated to learn more about them. Dr. Hall knew that the Asian lady beetle had only recently, in 2004, arrived in his native England, and is already found all over the U.K. Data collected as part of a citizen science effort based at Cambridge University shows it to be one of the fastest documented invasions ever by an insect. He also knew that in the U.S., the Asian lady beetle has excluded many indigenous ladybugs from parts of their original range. “I wanted to know how this insect could have invaded the U.K. so quickly,” Dr. Hall said. “And I also wanted to know what the impacts on native species are likely to be.” He has just published two new papers that explore these questions in the journals Biology Letters and Ecology. “What makes this insect a good biocontrol also makes it a good invader,” Dr. Hall said. “It has multiple generations per year, compared to just one for native British ladybugs. It tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions. And it has a generalist diet—it likes aphids, but it will also eat other ladybugs. In other words, it eats its own competition.” Dr.