A bit of RNA wrapped in a fatty nano-particle can shut down production of a protein that worsens ovarian cancer, a new study led by an Indian American has found.
"The protein interleukin-8 (IL-8) is a potential therapeutic target in ovarian cancer," said Anil Sood of the MD Anderson Cancer Centre and co-author of the study.
Findings of the study have appeared in the latest issue of the journal of the National Cancer Institute.
High IL-8 presence in tumours is associated with its advanced stages and earlier death for ovarian cancer patients. Lab experiments and research in a mouse model show that short interfering RNA (siRNA) can cut IL-8 concentration, reducing tumour size by attacking its blood supply.
Sood, a surgeon, took to full-time research after losing his father to prostate cancer about a decade ago.
"As a surgeon, I can help some patients, but it's through research focussed on understanding the biology of cancer that we'll find the real answers to this disease," Sood, who spent his boyhood in India, has been quoted as saying on the Andersdon web site.
To examine IL-8's role, Sood and his colleagues analysed tumours from 102 patients diagnosed and treated between 1988 and 2006 at MDACC and the University of Iowa.
Of those, 43 had tumours with high levels of IL-8, 59 had low levels. The median survival of the first group was 1.62 years, compared with 3.79 years for those with low concentration of the protein.
All 43 tumours with concentrations of IL-8 were of high grade and 42 of 43 were advanced, either stage III or IV tumours. By comparison, 10 of 59 tumours with low IL-8 concentration were early stage tumours and six were of low grade.
Interleukin-8 is a major factor in many types of cancer. It has been known to promote tumour and new blood vessel growth and the spread of cancer to other organs.
"In the long run, this research will have applications in other cancers as well," Sood said.