(January 13, 2014) Researchers at Case Western Reserve University, led by OCRFA grantee Analisa DiFeo, PhD have identified a microRNA biomarker that shows promise in predicting treatment response in the most common form of ovarian cancer – a finding that has the potential to improve outcomes for patients with the disease. The findings were published on January 7th in Nature Communications.
The researchers found that the biomarker miR-181a is a molecular driver of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). The research team also found that elevated levels of miR-181a in ovarian tumors are associated with chemotherapy resistance and disease progression.
“By looking at the expression of this microRNA in tumor samples, we get an idea which women may respond to standard chemotherapy and which are at a high risk for recurrence,” DiFeo said. “This helps guide treatment decisions and improve survival rates.”
In the past, researchers have been unable to predict how EOC patients will respond to treatment. This marks the first time scientists have demonstrated that a single miRNA – miR-181a – increases the cellular survival, drug resistance and tumor metastasis of ovarian cancer cells by activating TGF-β, a potent cancer signaling pathway.