Stories about: IDI

Packaging RNAs for speedy, accurate delivery — for cancer and more

Small interfering RNAs, or siRNAs, could be great targeted treatment tools for breast and other cancers. The problem is making sure they get packaged and delivered to where they need to go. (pscf11/Flickr)

Breast cancers whose cells carry the HER2 protein are pretty tough customers. They only account for about 20 percent of all breast cancers, but they are some of the most aggressive. While targeted drugs like trastuzumab (Herceptin) and lapatinib (Tykerb) have made these tumors easier to treat, those that resist these drugs, relapse or don’t have HER2 on their cells’ surfaces can still stymie oncologists.

A molecular phenomenon called RNA interference (RNAi)—in which small pieces of RNA silence the expression of individual genes—could provide an alternative solution for breast and other cancers.

Though it was first discovered in plants, researchers have known for about a decade that small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are active in mammals like us, and are already working on ways to harness them for shutting down genes promoting cancer and other diseases.

The problem with siRNAs for treatment, however, is making sure they get exactly where they need to go. That’s a problem that Judy Lieberman, MD, PhD, has taken a big step toward solving.

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