New Anti-Cancer Therapies Could Result from MicroRNA Technology

New anti-cancer therapies could result from a technology that manipulates microRNAs (miRNAs) developed by Jingfang Ju, a biochemist and Professor in the Department of Pathology at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.

The method may prove to be particularly effective against chemotherapy resistant cancers such as colorectal cancer. To advance the science of this method and develop miRNA-based drugs, the technology has been licensed to Curamir Therapeutics Inc., a biotechnology company, through an agreement with the Research Foundation of the State University of New York.

Jingfang Ju

Jingfang Ju, right, and Andrew Fesler, a post-doctoral fellow, prepare colorectal cancer cells treated with their miRNA mimic to determine the mimic’s efficacy against tumor cells and cancer stem cells.

Dr. Ju and colleagues have studied the relationship between miRNAs and cancer at Stony Brook for more than 10 years. The role of miRNAs is to regulate protein synthesis and allows cells to rapidly adopt to their environment, such as the introduction of cancer chemotherapy agents. As a whole, miRNAs promote, or hinder, cellular processes that fight cancer. Certain miRNAs function as tumor suppressors. Dr. Ju and his team have identified multiple miRNAs that function as tumor suppressors in cancer. When cancer occurs, these miRNAs cease to function properly due to abnormal expression, thus promoting cancer and chemotherapy resistance.

“Our laboratory has modified these tumor suppressive miRNAs to make them more stable and effective as potential novel therapeutic molecules,” Ju said.

“From that we have created a miRNA drug development platform technology that is designed to treat chemotherapy-resistant colorectal cancer, and potentially for other forms of cancer such as pancreatic, gastric, lung and breast.”

Curamir will take the proprietary miRNA engineering platform to develop anticancer drugs based on the tumor suppressive miRNA mimics identified by Dr. Ju and colleagues. An incubated company financed by Delos Capital, Curamir will begin developing these drugs for testing with an initial $10 million in financing from Delos Capital.

The company is co-founded by veteran scientists in the field of gene regulation, including Dr. Ju; Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA structure and a 1962 Nobel Laureate; and Dr. Lan Bo Chen, Professor Emeritus of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and Academician of the Academia Sinica of Taiwan.

Research leading to the development of the miRNA drug platform was funded in part by grants from the Long Island Bioscience Hub, led by the Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook University, under the National Institutes of Health REACH  program, as well as the National Cancer Institute.

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