Colon cancer cells use mysterious RNA strands to avoid cell death
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Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have discovered how unusually long strands of RNA help colon cancer cells avoid death, allowing unregulated growth. Unlike other RNAs, the intriguing strands do not appear to encode proteins and are termed “long non-coding RNAs” or “lincRNAs.”A new study showed some lincRNAs could be targeted by drug developers to halt colon cancer.

In a new study published in Scientific Reports, researchers compared lincRNA levels inside tumor cells, to levels inside healthy colon cells. They found over 200 lincRNAs at significantly different levels inside the tumor cells as compared to normal cells. One in particular, called lincDUSP, was overexpressed in 91 percent of the tumor samples. A few tumors had more than fifteen times the normal amount of lincDUSP. The significant increase suggested this mysterious, and previously uncharacterized, RNA could be cancer-causing.

“To determine whether lincDUSP shows oncogenic activity in colon cancer, we decided to test the effects of depleting lincDUSP in patient-derived colon tumor cell lines,” wrote the authors. The researchers genetically modified colon cancer cells to deplete lincDUSP, and surprisingly, the cells began replicating at normal rates. They no longer had unrestricted growth associated with colon cancer tumor cells.

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