October 31 - November 3, 2007
Hyatt Regency Cambridge
Phillip A. Sharp, MIT Center for Cancer Research, Cambridge, MA
René Bernards, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Todd R. Golub, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA
Non-coding RNAs have been recognized as gene-specific regulators and are similar in activity to a large number of protein transcription factors that are known to be critical in the transformation of cells to a malignant state. These RNAs can regulate every stage of gene expression: transcription, mRNA stability, and mRNA translation. Cancer cells have genetic and epigenetic changes from their normal counterparts and the role of non-coding RNAs in mediating these differences is beginning to emerge. These changes were a major focus of this conference. In addition, the use of short RNAs to identify novel cancer-relevant genes and to possibly treat cancer was discussed.
MicroRNAs are thought to regulate a quarter of all mammalian genes and alterations in their expression have been associated with the development of cancer. Mutations that have been identified to cause cancer in humans and in mouse models of human cancer have solidified the roles of microRNA in malignancy. Establishing the nature of gene regulation by microRNAs during normal development and physiology will be vital to understanding their role in cancer.
The roles of non-coding RNAs, other than microRNAs, in the regulation of transcription, such as epigenetic control of genes and repetitive sequences, has not been mechanistically studied in mammalian organisms as it has in many other biological systems. The discovery of new classes of non-coding RNAs may change this situation. The contexts of gene regulation by noncoding RNAs in non-human systems were discussed and provided insights into how these processes could function in human cells.
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