• Understanding the anti-cancer effects of microRNA miR-124-3p in neuroblastoma

    NCRC funded researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland have shown that over-expression of the microRNA miR-124-3p in neuroblastoma cells inhibits cancer cell growth and increases the sensitivity of neuroblastoma cells to the anti-cancer effects of chemotherapeutic agents.

    Neuroblastoma is childhood cancer caused by the abnormal growth and development of immature nerve cells (neuroblasts) of the sympathetic nervous system. This part of our nervous system is most commonly associated with our flight-fight response. Around 90% of neuroblastomas are seen in children under the age of 5. Despite recent advances in the treatment available to combat neuroblastoma, 1 in 5 children with drug-resistant and/or recurrent neuroblastoma will survive.

    microRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNA molecules found in plants, animals and some viruses. They play a critical in controlling gene expression, and changes in the expression of miRNAs are associated with the development and progression of cancer. The low expression of the neuronal miRNA miR-124-3p has been shown to be associated with poorer clinical outcomes in patients with neuroblastoma.

    In their newly published study, Dr. John Nolan, Dr. Olga Piskareva, and colleagues set out to investigate the potential anti-cancer effects of miR-124-3p in lab-based models of neuroblastoma. They show that increasing the expression of miR-124-3p inhibits neuroblastoma cell growth and increases their sensitivity to the chemotherapeutic agents. Besides, they show that miR-124-3p decreases the expression of several genes associated neuroblastoma cell growth and resistance to chemotherapeutic agents.

    On publication of the study results, prinicpal investigator Dr. Olga Piskareva said “This study is an excellent example of the many roles that small RNA molecules such as miR-124-3p can play in neuroblastoma pathogenesis. The ability of this miRNA to work together with standard chemo drugs can be exploited further in the development of new anticancer therapeutics targeting relapse and drug-resistant tumours”.

    This research was published in Frontiers in Cell and Development Biology. The complete publication can be found through the following link:

    John C. Nolan, Manuela Salvucci, Steven Carberry, Ana Barat, Miguel F. Segura, Justine Fenn, Jochen H. Prehn, Raymond L. Stallings and Olga Piskareva. A Context-Dependent Role for miR-124-3p on Cell Phenotype, Viability and Chemosensitivity in Neuroblastoma in vitro. Front. Cell Dev. Biol. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2020.559553

    Featured Image: Confocal microscopy image of neuroblastoma cells