A molecule cancer cells use to induce the growth of new blood vessels that are crucial in supporting tumour growth is reported in this week's Nature Medicine. Targeting this molecule or its downstream targets could have therapeutic implications in reducing tumour size.
Working with human tumours and mice, David Cheresh and his colleagues found that miR-132 ― a microRNA ― acts as an "angiogenic switch" to induce the formation of new blood vessels. The level of miR-132 was highly elevated in blood vessels of human tumours but was undetectable in normal vessels. Forced expression of miR-132 in blood vessel cells in vitro increased their proliferation, whereas reducing the expression of miR-132 in mice reduced blood vessel development. Similarly, reducing the expression of miR-132 in the tumours of mice suppressed blood vessel development and decreased tumour size.