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Title: The complex network of miRNA and mRNA target interactions in pancreatic cancer
Author: Frampton, Adam
ISNI:       0000 0004 5348 7123
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2014
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Pancreatic cancer (pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, PDAC) is one of the most lethal tumour types world-wide. The majority of patients present late with locally advanced or metastatic disease. Therefore, despite advances in operative techniques, perioperative management and oncological treatments, the overall 5-year survival remains <5%. Determining tumoural factors that contribute towards its aggressive nature may help in identifying novel molecular biomarkers and/or therapeutic targets. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that negatively regulate target gene expression and are able to act as tumour suppressors or oncogenes. MiRNAs have been extensively profiled and implicated in the initiation and progression of PDAC. Furthermore, there is a possibility of translating miRNAs into clinically useful biomarkers. Here, I developed upon these initial observations and demonstrate that miRNAs can be used to differentiate low risk pancreatic benign cystic tumours (BCTs) from PDAC. We confirmed that these miRNAs regulate the expression of known PDAC oncogenes, and that miR-16, miR-126 and let-7d target BCL2, CRK and KRAS respectively. Next, in order to investigate the main contributors to tumourigenesis, an integrated molecular analysis (miRNA-mRNA) was performed in PDAC. By using a combination of network-based bioinformatics, miR-21, miR-23a and miR-27a were prioritised as important in PDAC progression. We demonstrated that the use of a combination of miRNA inhibitors (against miR-21, miR-23a and miR-27a) in a murine subcutaneous PDAC xenograft model was able to reduce tumour growth, better than oncomiR-21 inhibition alone. BTG2 and NEDD4L were found to be direct targets of the miRNA combination and were established as new candidate tumour suppressors in PDAC. The clinical relevance of this 3 miRNA signature was demonstrated, as high expressors of the combination have poor overall survival after surgical resection, independent of other clinicopathologic factors. Together, these studies identify specific miRNAs as important regulators of PDAC tumourigenesis and their possible use as biomarkers.
Supervisor: Castellano, Leandro; Stebbing, Justin; Jiao, Long Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral