The proposed work focuses on identifying novel miRNA drivers in cancer and utilizes this and other knowledge to develop miRNA-based therapeutics. This "Pathway to Independence" award application includes a mentored career development plan for the transition of the candidate, Dr. Andrea Kasinski, into an independent investigator, as well an accompanying research plan describing the proposed experiments on discovering miRNAs that can potentiate KRAS-driven lung adenocarcinoma and exploring novel therapeutic strategies for re-expressing tumor-suppressive miRNAs, which includes a high-throughput screen to identify a small molecule that can restore miRNA processing and combinatorial miRNA therapies for sensitizing tumors to conventional chemotherapies. The candidate, Dr. Kasinski, is a postdoctoral fellow at Yale, in the lab of Dr. Frank Slack in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. The work leading to her graduate degree in Genetics and Molecular Biology at Emory University was conducted in the lab of Dr. Haian Fu in the Department of Pharmacology and focused on targeting cell survival signaling for therapeutic development. In the Fu lab, Dr. Kasinski performed two very distinct projects that were interrelated based on the ultimate goal of developing targeted therapeutics: in one project Dr. Kasinski utilized biochemical assays to identified IKK-? as a direct target of EF24, an analogue of curcumin that ultimately made its way into clinical trials. For the second project a series of genetic and molecular techniques were used to evaluate the transcriptional regulation of an oncogenic 14-3-3 family member, with the hope that this knowledge might spearhead subsequent studies to block 14-3-3 expression. The mentoring and career development plan will supplement her background, which is evenly split between genetic, molecular biology, whole animal studies and small molecule screening, with training and instruction in each, and in the particular areas that this project involves: murine biology, cancer biology, cell culture technique and high-throughput drug screening. Dr. Kasinski's goal is to become a faculty member in an interdisciplinary biosciences, cancer biology, or similar department at an academic, private, or government facility, in which she can research the biology of miRNAs in cancer and work to advance miRNA-based therapies. This research on miRNAs involvement in cancer requires that an innovative and selective screen be performed which Dr. Kasinski is actively pursuing first in cell culture and will advance into animal models. This assay in soft agar is selecting for miRNAs that can specifically cause normal human lung bronchial epithelial cells to become transformed. MiRNAs identified from this assay will be evaluated further in cell culture and ultimately in vivo. The proposed study involving miRNA therapeutics is two fold. The first takes into account the interaction of let-7 and LIN-28. Dr. Kasinski is in an active collaboration with Dr. Haian Fu, Co-Director of the Chemical Biology and Drug Screening Center at Emory University, to perform a high throughput screen (HTS) to identify inhibitors of this protein-RNA interaction. Hits from this HTS will be evaluated for cell permeability, kinetics and in vivo therapeutic potential, by several independent avenues of investigation. Finally building on Dr. Kasinski's current findings that miR-34 and let-7 represent valid therapeutic options for non-small cell lung cancer, she will evaluate these miRNA therapies in combination with currently used chemotherapies and targeted-therapeutics in cell culture, xenografts and in the Kras;p53 double mutant. This work is novel, timely and has clear and significant implications for human health and survival. The identification of miRNAs and targeted-therapies to perturb miRNA imbalance that occurs in cancer is invaluable to the fields of cancer and miRNA biology, and has direct clinical application.

Public Health Relevance

This project specifically seeks to explore the miRNAs that are essential to lung cancer initiation and to use this understanding of miRNA biology to develop cancer therapeutics. These studies have the potential to provide a better understanding of the molecular pathology of lung and other cancers, knowledge that can lead to significant improvements in cancer treatment and ultimate cure rates in the long term. While this is an emerging field, the benefit to our understanding of miRNAs in cancer will be enormous if we can harness these natural growth suppressors and their processing machinery as anti-cancer agents.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Transition Award (R00)
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Special Emphasis Panel (NSS)
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Arya, Suresh
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Purdue University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
West Lafayette
United States
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Kasinski, A L; Kelnar, K; Stahlhut, C et al. (2015) A combinatorial microRNA therapeutics approach to suppressing non-small cell lung cancer. Oncogene 34:3547-55
Adams, Brian D; Kasinski, Andrea L; Slack, Frank J (2014) Aberrant regulation and function of microRNAs in cancer. Curr Biol 24:R762-76