Using one of the newest and most powerful tools of biomedical science, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) researchers have scored a dramatic success in the battle against colorectal cancer.
The scientists were the first to use what are known as "small interfering RNAs" to block the spread of human colorectal cancer cells implanted in laboratory mice. Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), first described in 2001, are tiny bits of genetic material that can prevent the translation of genes into proteins -- including specific proteins involved in biochemical reactions that promote cancer and other diseases.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the country's second leading cancer killer. In 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 70,651 men and 68,883 women were diagnosed with the colorectal cancer in the United States; 28,471 men and 28,132 women died from the disease.
"What's exciting about this is that by using siRNAs we were able to selectively block components of the PI3K pathway, a biochemical pathway that is activated in a number of cancers, and suppress the spread of colon cancer in experimental animals," said UTMB professor of surgery B. Mark Evers, senior author of a paper on the research published in the June issue of Annals of Surgery. "Over the last couple of years people have talked a lot about cell-culture studies of siRNAs, but only a handful of labs have pushed it to animal models, which we need to do before going on to clinical trials."