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New colon cancer tumour suppressors found among the "junk genome".

Researchers at CIMA identify non-coding genes that can distinguish malignant cells in this tumor subject with high sensitivity.

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Maite Huarte, Francesco Marchese, Víctor Segura, Yolanda Sánchez, Alejandro Athie, Elena Grossi, Oskar Marín and Jovanna González, CIMA researchers. PHOTO: Manuel Castells
02/02/15 12:40 Mª Pilar Huarte

Scientists at research center Applied Medicine (CIMA) of the University of Navarra have identified non-coding genes that can distinguish malignant colorectal cancer cells with great sensitivity. The results have been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Eighty percent of the human genome is composed of long non-coding RNAs, or lncRNAs. Until recently they were thought to have no function and were therefore classified as "genomic junk". However, new genomic techniques have shown that they regulate important cellular processes and that they are altered in diseases such as cancer.

Researchers at CIMA have identified lncRNAs directly regulated by the p53 protein, which plays an essential role in protecting our body against cancer. "We have shown that these lncRNAs are not only an active and necessary part of the p53 response, but also constitute a diagnostic fingerprint that allows us to distinguish tumor cells from colorectal cancer with great specificity and sensitivity," explains Dr. Yolanda Sánchez, first author of work. "Specifically, we found that the expression of these lncRNAs is decreased in tumor samples, which constitutes a diagnostic marker and a potential therapeutic target," explains Dr. Maite Huarte, researcher in the Gene Therapy and Regulation of Gene Expression Program at CIMA and director of work.