MicroRNAs, mice, and Mirna Therapeutics

Over the past 24 hours there’s been media noise generated by a company called Mirna Therapeutics based on a company media release and a Letter to the Editor in Nature Medicine about how a specific piece of microRNA (miR-34) is down-regulated in prostate cancer stem cells and that this down-regulation is essential for viability of cancer stem cells.

The Letter to the Editor by Liu et al. also discusses the fact that systemic delivery of a “synthetic” micro-RNA molecule that mimics miR-34 (miR-34a) was able to  inhibit prostate cancer tumor growth and metastasis grafted into laboratory mice. This effect of microRNA molecules has also been demonstrated in mouse models of lung, pancreatic, and other cancers.

We have noted before that being able to slow and even arrest the development of prostate cancer in laboratory mice is a good deal easier than being able to make it happen in man. There was another article from Australia just this morning about inhibition (in mice) of a molecule known as CD151 that is also associated with the development and growth of metastatic prostate cancer.

The ability of microRNA molecules to control the development of prostate cancer stem cells and the growth and metastasis of prostate cancer is obviously a significant step forward in understanding the way in which prostate cancer develops over time. Whether this knowledge can be “translated” into diagnostic, prognostic, and/or therapeutic tools that are actually of clinical value in the management of prostate cancer will be a much tougher question to answer.

A lot of the media attention is related to Mirna’s need to raise capital to move their potential products out of the laboratory and into clinical research. For those who are interested in a wider overview of the potential of microRNAs in the management of cancer, there’s a good, brief commentary on the InPharm web site. There is also additional information on the Mirna Theraeutics web site. Mirna is just one of a number of companies that is investigating the potential of microRNA-related technology.

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