Researchers from UT Health San Antonio have found a minuscule molecule, thousands of times smaller than a gene, that can fight off medulloblastoma, the most common pediatric brain cancer. Accounting for 15-20% of cases, the disease typically affects children with ages between three and eight.
MiR-584-5p has a remarkable interaction with the mutated cells, sensitizing them to the effect of chemotherapy and radiation. This allows doctors to use significantly lower doses in treatment, thus reducing exposure to these cytotoxic drugs and preventing possible short and long-term adverse reactions.
Manjeet Rao, Ph.D., associate professor of cell systems and anatomy at UT Health San Antonio noted that: “Currently we barrage the brain with radiation and chemo, and patients have poor quality of life. Using this molecule, we could dial down those therapies considerably, by 90 percent. That’s exciting”.
The molecule is present in low levels or absent altogether in medulloblastoma. Increasing its count to a degree comparable to that found in healthy cells robs the cancer of mechanisms it uses to survive.
Due to its size, MiR-584-5p can effortlessly permeate the blood-brain barrier and easily reach the tumor, which is a problem for many other therapies. The body recognizes the particle and does not treat it as a foreign element. Furthermore, the molecule leaves healthy cells unaffected.
The team is looking into expanding testing for MiR-584-5p and found it an excellent candidate for another type of aggressive and lethal brain cancer, glioblastoma.
These findings could open the way for a safer and more targetable approach in the treatment of brain cancers.