Studying RNA to treat prostate cancer

Dr Housheng Hansen He
Dr Housheng Hansen He

While DNA is often described as the genetic blueprint of life, it’s RNA that is taking centre stage in a new CCS-funded study you helped make possible.

RNA allows the instructions found in DNA to be used to make the protein machines that carry out all work inside cells. While most RNAs are long and string-like, recent studies discovered RNAs that are circular.

To better understand these circular RNAs, Dr Housheng Hansen He and his team conducted an in-depth study of their role in prostate tumour development and progression.

“Our study provided the first comprehensive, large-scale profile of circular RNAs in cancer,” says Dr He. “It opens up a whole new area of research in the cancer field.”

Dr He and his team found that each of the tumours they studied had an average of more than 7,000 distinct circular RNAs. They also discovered that when the circular RNA levels in tumours were either too high or too low, the prostate cancer was more likely to return and progress.

The team is now testing whether circular RNAs in the blood can help diagnose prostate cancer earlier and predict whether it will come back and spread to other sites in the body.

“It takes a whole community to move new and impactful research like ours to clinics that eventually benefit patients,” notes Dr He. “This can’t happen without the support of CCS donors.”

And we couldn’t be more grateful.