LSU Health NO Research Identifies New Breast Cancer Therapeutic Target

Research led by Suresh Alahari, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, has shown for the first time that a tiny piece of RNA deregulates energy metabolism, an emerging hallmark of cancer. The finding identifies a new target for therapeutic intervention in breast cancer.

MicroRNAs are a class of small, single-stranded RNA molecules that play an important regulatory role in cell biology. They bind to target genes and decrease their function.  MicroRNAs may act as oncogenes (a gene that contributes to cancer development) or tumor suppressors.

The LSU Health New Orleans research team has shown that miR-27b, a novel microRNA, acts as a breast cancer oncogene. It is found in abundance in breast tumors. In this study working with a line of human breast cancer cells, they demonstrated that it suppresses the production of a protein called PDHX. PDHX is involved in cell metabolism, which among other things, affects cell proliferation. Its absence allows the rapid creation of new cells, promoting tumor growth and cancer progression. The team found a significant decrease in PDHX levels in breast cancer cells. 

“Based on this data, we believe suppression of miR-27b is a novel approach for breast cancer therapies,” noted Dr. Alahari. “Suppression of miR-27b enhances PDHX expression, which helps in suppressing tumor progression through fixing several metabolic cascades.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be more cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the United States in 2018 than other cancers.

“Using microRNA mimics or anti-miRNAs can counteract and therapeutically reverse oncogene metabolism would signify a truly unique unprecedented approach to cancer treatment,” Alahari said. “The potential clinical uses of miRNA include utilization in diagnostic testing and disease prevention as well as prognostic markers making miRNAs unique and attractive options in the effort to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality.”

The research team also included Dr. Shengli Dong and Steven Eastlack at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine as well as Dr. Cristina Ivan at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The research was supported by the Fred G. Brazda Foundation, Ochsner Foundation, and LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.