Non-coding RNAs in Cancer
Dr Leandro Castellano
+44 (0)20 7594 2822
What we do
The focus of our research is a class of molecule called noncoding RNA (ncRNA). 2% of human DNA contains RNA that encodes proteins, whilst the vast majority of the rest represent ncRNA. We, and others, have shown several RNAs from this class are pivotal in the development of cancer. Our particular focus is on microRNAs and long ncRNAs. They were thought to have no function so there is still much to be learnt about their roles in cancerogenesis.
Why it is important
The control of proteins within a cell is vital to its survival, and when that control is abnormal, the cell can acquire cancerous traits that ultimately lead to the development of tumours and drug resistance. NcRNA play an important role in the control of the level and activity of cellular proteins, and as such, identifying these RNA and understanding their mechanism of action will enable us to have more control over the cancer cell.
How it can benefit patients
We hope to identify ncRNAs and novel pathways involved in cancer growth or treatment resistance that could be targeted with new therapy. The modulation of these molecules is possible in clinical practice and early drug trials targeting specific ncRNA are underway. We also suspect that these molecules will make good biomarkers as they are very stable in the blood, and could be used to assist in earlier diagnosis and monitoring treatment response.
Summary of current research
- Identification of novel long ncRNAs (lncRNAs) and microRNAs in cancer initiation, progression and metastasis using RNA sequencing technologies
- Evaluation of the mechanism of action of selected ncRNAs in cancer and the network of coding-noncoding RNA and protein interaction
- Investigation of the interaction between AGO proteins, microRNAs and their targets in cancer using AGO immunoprecipitation followed by next generation sequencing of the protected fragments (CLIP-seq)
- Use of CRISPR technologies to identify novel ncRNAs regulated by microRNAs in cancer
- Assessment of the therapeutic potential of selected ncRNAs
- Valuation of the potential of selected ncRNAs as cancer biomarkers
When we have funding for PhD studentships, we advertise them through central channels such as Find a PhD. Information is also available on the Surgery and Cancer study page. If no studentships are currently advertised, please get in touch with the group lead with proposed project titles to discuss further.
Current PhD students:
- Paul Cathcart
- Victoria Harding
- Cheuk Yiu