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microRNA in Cancer
June 22, 2009
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. EST

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10:00-10:10            Chairperson’s Opening Remarks 

10:10-10:40 Non-Coding RNAs as Biomarkers in Human Cancers 
George A. Calin, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Experimental Therapeutics & Cancer Genetics, The University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Over the past few years, molecular oncology research has revealed that abnormalities in both protein coding genes (PCGs) and noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) can be identified in tumors and that the interplay between PCGs and ncRNAs is causally involved in the initiation, progression and metastases of human cancers. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), which are among the most studied ncRNAs, are small 19- to 25-nucleotide genes involved in the regulation of PCGs and other ncRNAs. With the recent findings of miRNAs’ involvement in cancer, RNA inhibition can be used to treat cancer patients in two ways: a) by using RNA or DNA molecules as therapeutic drugs against messenger RNA of genes involved in the pathogenesis of cancers and b) by directly targeting ncRNAs that participate in cancer pathogenesis. In this review, we focus on the possible use of miRNAs or compounds interacting with miRNAs as new therapeutic agents in cancer patients.

10:40-10:50            Sponsored Presentation 
Opportunity available. Contact Ilana Quigley, Business Development, 781-972-5457 or iquigley@healthtech.com 

10:50-11:20 A microRNA qRT-PCR Assay that Differentiates Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma from Chronic Pancreatitis 
Anna Szafranska-Schwarzbach, Ph.D., CLIA Laboratory Supervisor, Pharmacogenomics Services, Asuragen, Inc.
Using microarray and qRT-PCR platforms we identified miR-196a and miR-217 as the top biomarker candidates that distinguish pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) from chronic pancreatitis. The qRT-PCR assay developed using this microRNA (miRNA) signature was validated using formalin-fixed, paraffin embedded (FFPE) pancreatic blocks and achieved 95.24% sensitivity and 94.87% specificity. Early feasibility experiments showed that the assay can also be successfully used to identify PDAC in low tissue yielding clinical specimens, such as fine needle aspirate biopsies. In addition, interrogation of microdissected populations of normal, pre-malignant and malignant cells revealed that miR-196a is specific to PDAC cells and can be detected as early as in PanIn-2 precursor lesions. Our ongoing efforts will assess whether elevated expression of miR-196a in pancreatic tissue may enable earlier identification of patients at high risk to develop PDAC in the future.

11:20-11:30            Sponsored Presentation 
Opportunity available. Contact Ilana Quigley, Business Development, 781-972-5457 or iquigley@healthtech.com 

11:30-12:00 Impact of miRNA in Colorectal Cancer and Ostersarcoma 
Jingfang Ju, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Co-Director, Translational Research Laboratory, Department of Pathology, Stony Brook University Medical Center
Research involved in the translational regulation of suspected genes in cancer has come to the forefront in recent years. We first reported a regulatory connection between p53 tumor suppressor and certain miRNAs in colon cancer. Some of these miRNAs were associated with clinical outcome of colon cancer treatment. We recently demonstrated that miR-192 and a close related miR-215 can impact cell proliferation and it was directly regulated by p53. Two important targets thymidylate synthase and dihydrofolate reductase of miR-215 were identified in colon cancer and osteosarcoma. We believe these miRNAs will be important as new cancer biomarker and therapeutic targets.

 

About the Speakers:

George A. Calin, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Experimental Therapeutics & Cancer Genetics, The University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
George Adrian Calin received both his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Carol Davila University of Medicine in Bucharest, Romania.  After working in cytogenetics as undergraduate student with Dr. Dragos Stefanescu in Bucharest, he completed a training program in cancer genomics in Dr. Massimo Negrini’s laboratory at University of Ferrara, Italy. In 2000 he became a postdoctoral fellow at Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA, in Dr. Carlo Croce’s laboratory.  He is presently an Associate Professor in Experimental Therapeutics at MDACC and studies the roles of microRNAs and other non-coding RNAs in cancer initiation and progression, as well as the mechanisms of cancer predisposition and explores new RNA therapeutic options for cancer patients.

Anna Szafranska-Schwarzbach, Ph.D., CLIA Laboratory Supervisor, Pharmacogenomics Services, Asuragen, Inc. 
Anna E. Szafranska-Schwarzbach, Ph.D., the CLIA Laboratory Supervisor at Asuragen, Inc., first joined the company in 2005 as a staff scientist.  She received her M.S. degree in Pharmacy at the Wroclaw University of Medicine in Poland, and her Ph.D. degree in Bio-Organic Chemistry & Enzymology at the University of Bristol.  She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy at the University of Texas in Austin.  Dr. Szafranska-Schwarzbach has authored and co-authored many articles on microRNA expression, analysis and related topics in molecular pathology, which have been published in such journals as Clinical Chemistry, the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, and Oncogene.  A member of the Association of Molecular Pathologists (AMP), she has filed a patent for differentially expressed microRNA in pancreatic diseases, and has presented her work at numerous scientific conferences around the world.

Jingfang Ju, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Co-Director of Translational Research Laboratory, Department of Pathology, Stony Brook University Medical Center
Upon completion of his doctorate in molecular biology and biochemistry at the University of Southern California in 1996, Dr. Ju joined Yale University as a postdoctoral fellow to investigate the mechanism of translational control of p53 tumor suppressor mediated by RNA binding protein thymidylate synthase, a key target for fluoropyrimidine based chemotherapy. This led to the discovery that p53 was regulated at the translational level by direct interacting with thymidylate synthase protein (Ju et al. PNAS, 1999). Dr. Ju joined CuraGen Inc. in 2000 and led a group to develop genomic technologies for target discovery. He invented a high throughput technology to analyze actively translated gene expression (Ju et al., Nuc Acids Res, 2003). Dr. Ju joined the faculty of the Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama as the head of the cancer genomics program. His group was the first to discover that non-coding microRNAs are part of the p53 tumor suppressor network (Xi et al., Clinical Cancer Res, 2006). It is expected that this work will lead to new discovery of novel anticancer targets and biomarkers for prognosis. His group was among the first to discover that several microRNAs are associated with clinical outcomes in colon cancer. Currently Dr. Ju is leading a translational research program at Stony Brook University School of Medicine focusing on elucidating the molecular mechanism of translational control mediated by microRNAs in cancer, in particular, to discover microRNA mediated targets and their roles in cell cycle control and chemosensitivity in colorectal cancer, osteosarcoma, and melanoma.

 

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