oncRNA proposed – new molecules driving cancer

A new class of cancer-specific molecules has been identified and named as orphan noncoding RNA. Acronim oncRNA also relates them to potential oncogenic role.

A study initially found 437 novel molecules in cancer cell lines and then compared the data with TCGA (The Cancer Genome Atlas aggregating one thousand cases). In result, 201 novel molecules overlapping between two analyses were proposed as oncRNA – short RNAs present in cancer but not in healthy tissue.

Among them, T3p is the first, flagship oncRNA for breast cancer. A broad investigation, involving cancer cell lines and mice models, proved the essential participation of that 45 nucleotide-long molecule in the process of cancer metastasis.

Detailed experimental work revealed that T3p promotes cancer metastasis by silencing of specific ribonucleoprotein (RNA-induced silencing complex – RISC) and activation of oncogenes NUPR1 and PANX2.

In addition to T3p, other 200 molecules are also specific for cancer. As the authors conclude, they may serve as a therapeutic target or a biomarker:

oncRNA profiling in serum samples could act as an informative digital fingerprint — that is, a profile of the presence or absence of each of the oncRNAs — of the underlying tumor.

Follow-up studies should determine whether all 201 oncRNAs are important in cancer etiology.

More: “Cancer cells exploit an orphan RNA to drive metastatic progression”, L. Fish et al., 2018, doi:10.1038/s41591-018-0230-4.