MISSION MAGAZINE: Tiny molecule has big effect in childhood brain cancer

Sometimes small things make the biggest difference.

A new study has found that a molecule thousands of times smaller than a gene is able to kill medulloblastoma, the most common childhood brain cancer.

This tiny molecule, named MiR-584-5p, is quite efficient in its action. It sensitizes the cancer to chemotherapy and radiation, making it plausible to treat the tumors with one-tenth the dose that is currently required, said study senior author Manjeet Rao, Ph.D., associate professor of cell systems and anatomy and a member of the university’s Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute.

“Currently we barrage the brain with radiation and chemo, and patients have a poor quality of life,” Dr. Rao said. “Using this molecule, we could dial down those therapies considerably, by 90 percent. That’s exciting.”

The molecule is found at very low levels or is absent altogether in medulloblastoma. Increasing it to the amount found in healthy cells robs the cancer of mechanisms it uses to survive, studies show.

“This can serve as a potent therapeutic for treating cancer,” Dr. Rao said.

The journal Nature Communications published the findings in October.

SOURCE: Mission Magazine, Winter 2019.

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