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Short sequences of RNA that can effectively turn off specific genes have for the first time been used to treat skin cancer in people.

The technique, called RNA interference (RNAi), gained its inventors a Nobel Prize in 2006, but researchers have struggled to get it to the clinic, partly because of problems in getting the molecules to their target.

Now, Mark Davis from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and his colleagues have found a way to deliver particles containing such sequences to patients with the skin cancer melanoma. When analysing biopsies of the tumours after treatment, they found that the particles had inhibited expression of a key gene, called RRM2, needed for the cancer cells to multiply. Their research is published today in Nature1.

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