James CCC Header Gray Genome Wheel 2017

NCI grant-funded project will produce online tool for discerning cancer biomarkers

Giovanni Nigita PhDA two-year, $390,290 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will help Ohio State researchers develop a freely accessible online tool that will enable scientists to better understand potential cancer biomarkers that can be targeted with novel therapies.

Principal investigator for the grant is Giovanni Nigita, PhD, a research scientist in the Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics within Ohio State’s College of Medicine.

Nigita says his team recently introduced a transformative approach for stratifying cancer patients – or grouping them based on characteristics of their cancer to improve personalized treatment – by concurrently profiling both canonical (standard form) and modified microRNAs to reveal intricate interactions that influence gene regulation.

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are non-coding RNAs that play key roles in gene expression. Because modified miRNAs may serve as biomarkers for cancer diagnosis and diagnosis – working with or against canonical miRNAs – scientists believe profiling both types at the same time could improve patient stratification.

But in their project abstract, Nigita and colleagues state that concurrent profiling of canonical and modified miRNAs has yet to be investigated properly in cancer. Additionally, they note that no online resource offers easy and comprehensive consultation to study miRNA variants in cancer.

Finding solutions to these gaps, they write, “would positively impact discovering novel potential cancer biomarkers and uncovering cancer-related mechanisms associated with a broader miRNAome.” (The miRNAome is the entire network of miRNAs within a cell.)

In this project, the researchers will outline the function and the molecular regulation of the broader miRNAome in a cancer-context by computer analyses and experimental validations. And to make their data available to the scientific community, they will build an accessible online tool called isomiRGate that will elucidate the role of miRNA variants as potential cancer biomarkers and help deduce the function and regulation of the broader miRNAome in cancer.

Nigita says isomiRGate also will be adaptable to new analysis methods, “holding the potential for discovering new therapeutic targets for treating this deadly disease, with anticipated future clinical applications.”
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