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Archive - Feb 3, 2012

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New Technology Tackles Treatment-Resistant Cancers

Free-flowing cancer cells have been mapped with unprecedented accuracy in the bloodstream of patients with prostate, breast, and pancreatic cancer, using a brand-new approach, in an attempt to assess and control the disease as it spreads in real time through the body, and to solve the problem of predicting response and resistance to therapies. In comparison to a previous generation of systems, the researchers state their test showed a significantly greater number of high-definition circulating tumor cells (HD-CTCs), in a higher proportion of patients, by using a computing-intensive method that enables them to look at millions of normal cells and find the rare cancer cells among them. Their results, published on February 3, 2012, in Physical Biology, could help reveal the mechanisms behind the spread of solid tumours from one organ or tissue to another – mechanisms that have, until now, remained a mystery. Dr Jorge Nieva, an oncologist at Billings Clinic (Billings, Montana) leading the study, said: "This technology will allow scientists to move away from mouse and cell culture systems and speed the delivery of cures for cancer in people. This is the technology we have been waiting for to solve the problem of resistance to chemotherapy drugs." Senior technology author of the study, Professor Peter Kuhn, said: "In the future, our fluid biopsy can effectively become the companion to the patient for life. If we can assess the disease in real time, we can make quantitative treatment decisions in real time.

New RNA-Based Therapeutic Strategies for Controlling Gene Expression

Small RNA-based nucleic acid drugs represent a promising new class of therapeutic agents for silencing abnormal or overactive disease-causing genes, and researchers have discovered new mechanisms by which RNA drugs can control gene activity. A comprehensive review article in Nucleic Acid Therapeutics, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., details these advances. Short strands of nucleic acids, called small RNAs, can be used for targeted gene silencing, making them attractive drug candidates. These small RNAs block gene expression through multiple RNA interference (RNAi) pathways, including two newly discovered pathways in which small RNAs bind to Argonaute proteins or other forms of RNA present in the cell nucleus, such as long non-coding RNAs and pre-mRNA. Dr. Keith T. Gagnon and Dr. David R. Corey, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas, Texas, review common features shared by RNAi pathways for controlling gene expression and focus in detail on the potential for Argonaute-RNA complexes in gene regulation and other exciting new options for targeting emerging forms of non-coding RNAs and pre-mRNAs in the review. "The field of RNA-mediated control of gene expression is rapidly evolving and the article by Gagnon and Corey provides a highly informative and up-to-date review of this exciting and often surprising area of biomedical research. We are delighted to publish this important review for the field," says Co-Editor-in-Chief Dr. Bruce A. Sullenger, Duke Translational Research Institute, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina. [Press release] [Nucleic Acid Therapeutics artcle]