Study IDs 23 microRNAs linked to laryngeal cancer

A Henry Ford Hospital study has identified 23 microRNAs for laryngeal cancer, a discovery that could yield new insight into what causes certain cells to grow and become cancerous tumors in the voice box.

Findings from the study were presented September 13 in San Francisco at the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery Foundation annual meeting.

The role of microRNA (miRNA), the small, noncoding RNA molecules that regulate human genes, has recently come into greater focus as researchers continue to understand the cellular mechanics of cancer development, according to lead study author Kang Mei Chen, MD, a research investigator in the department of otolaryngology - head & neck surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.

MiRNA may help cancer researchers unravel the complexities of what happens at the genomic level of cell evolution. It's estimated that at least 800 human miRNAs exist. Since miRNAs are differentially expressed in various types of cancers compared with noncancerous tissues, researchers believe that they may play a crucial role in the production or formation of tumors.

"By gaining insight into laryngeal cancer, it gives us another level to understand what goes wrong and when cells decide to embark on a tumor genesis journey. From there, it's possible for researchers to look at how to control cancer growth and improve treatment," said co-author Maria Worsham, PhD, the director of research in the department of otolaryngology - head & neck surgery at Henry Ford.

The goal of the study was to discover miRNAs specific to laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma. The researchers performed global miRNA profiling on stored laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma samples, as well as noncancerous tissue samples from the larynx. The team then used quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction -- a fast and inexpensive technique used to copy small segments of DNA -- to verify miRNAs in the laryngeal cancer samples. Of the 800 human miRNAs, 23 were found to be different between the cancerous and normal laryngeal tissue samples.

Among the 23 miRNAs tied to laryngeal cancer through the study, 15 had yet to be reported in head and neck cancer. With the field narrowed to 23 miRNAs in laryngeal cancer, it presents researchers with the opportunity to quantify each piece of RNA and further study miRNAs in head and neck cancer, Dr. Chen noted.

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