One of the most effective ways of treating cancer today is ‘chemotherapy’. However, chemotherapy attacks cancerous cells as well as other normal cells in the body due to which the condition of a cancer patient worsens for a few days.
Indian researchers have now discovered a technique whose therapy will only attack cancerous cells and not harm the rest of the body’s cells.
The micro-RNA developed by researchers from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) specifically kills cervical cancer cells. The currently available treatments for cervical cancer are chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but it also has an effect on non-cancerous cells, which is quite harmful and toxic.
The findings of the study could pave the way for the development of micro-RNA therapy that is not harmful for the treatment of cervical cancer in the future.
This micro-RNA has been discovered by a team of researchers from BHU led by Samarendra Kumar Singh, Assistant Professor, School of Biotechnology, Institute of Science, BHU. During the study, Singh and his Ph. D student Garima Singh demonstrated that a human micro-RNA, miR-34a, kills the viral E6 gene, which in turn shuts down an oncogenic cell cycle factor, and kills only cervical cancer cells.
This discovery is of utmost importance in the context of developing a safe and specific therapy in the management of cervical cancer. During the study, the researchers found that no ill-effects were seen on normal or non-cancerous cells.
Upon completion, this study could be important towards developing specific treatment therapies for cervical cancer. The study findings have been published in BMC Cancer, one of the most prestigious journals in the field of cancer. This is the first study to show that miR-34a suppresses cancer cells by regulating the cell cycle.
High-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) is a factor in 99 per cent of cervical cancer cases by weakening the host cell’s multiple tumor suppressors and checkpoint factors. The viral protein also stabilises several oncogenic factors, including an essential cell cycle regulator Cdt2/ DTL which in turn promotes cell transformation and proliferation.
Samarendra Singh said, “Micro-RNAs have emerged as an important regulator of the cell cycle and various other cellular processes. Adverse changes in micro-RNAs have been linked to the development of many cancers and other diseases, but little is still known about the mechanism by which they control these cellular events.”
He added, “We have reported that the discovered micro-RNA destabilises certain proteins and plays a role in inhibiting the growth of infected cervical cancer cells, resulting in cell proliferation, invasion and migration of HPV-positive cervical cancer cells and helps to control it.”
Singh’s laboratory conducts research in the field of cancer, especially cervical and gastrointestinal cancers. To execute their studies, they use a variety of molecular biology, biochemistry and structural biology tools and seek to investigate why and how cell cycle behaviour is misregulated in cancer cells.
His laboratory had earlier made an important discovery towards cancer diagnosis by evaluating the amount of tumor DNA in the serum of cervical cancer patients which was published in Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics (JCRT), a prestigious journal in the field of cancer.