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Institute of Oncology Research (IOR),

affiliated to USI,

run by an


foundation with the same name


Innovative therapies against tumors

RNA molecule: Regulatory RNAs can be used as targets to combat the onset of cancers (Image: Vossman, Wikipedia).
RNA molecule: Regulatory RNAs can be used as targets to combat the onset of cancers (Image: Vossman, Wikipedia).

Institutional Communication Service

A team of researchers at the Institute of Oncology Research (IOR, affiliated with USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences) has identified a new class of regulatory RNAs, which are able to act as molecular switches and can contribute in controlling the genetic evolution processes that are responsible for some cancer pathologies. 

The study, led by IOR Director Prof. Carlo Catapano and published on the scientific journal Nature Communications, has put together different data from various experimental models and clinical specimens, showing that a specific regulatory RNA could contribute to epigenetic silencing (change in heritability) of an important gene able to protect the prostate cells from potentially cancerous mutations. 

The RNA is a polymeric molecule essential in various biological roles in coding, decoding, regulation of genes. Together with the DNA it constitutes one of the major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life. According to researchers, the use of RNAs as targets could limit the onset of cancer.

The research operates in an emerging and interesting study area for both understanding tumor transformation processes, and for the development of possible clinical applications for diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic purposes. According to Prof. Carlo Catapano: “The study has shown for the first time the interconnection between genetic alterations, structure and function of regulatory RNAs and epigenetic processes. This means that in a near future, thanks to medications acting on these “targets”, we will be able to intervene on the underlying genetic conditions, therefore preventing or slowing down cancer development”.

The article: http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15622
Pisignano, G. et al. A promoter-proximal transcript targeted by genetic polymorphism controls E-cadherin silencing in human cancers. Nat. Commun. 8, 15622 doi:10.1038/ncomms15622 (2017).