Non-coding RNAs as Predictors of Cancer Outcomes

Kristianna Fredenburg, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine

RNA of protein coding genes account for only 2% of the human genome. The remaining RNA, with low or no protein coding capacity, are called noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) and can be classified as either short or long ncRNAs. For several years, ncRNAs have gained momentum as predictors and prognostic markers of disease. microRNAs (miRNAs) have been at the forefront of this pursuit. As short, small, single-stranded ncRNAs, they normally function to regulate and control gene expression for many processes in human development. Deregulation of miRNAs is a well-known phenomenon that occurs across cancer types with expression levels dependent on the tissue or cancer origin. Recently, another class of ncRNAs, transcribed ultraconserved regions (T-UCRs) have gained attention as potential prognostic markers of disease. T-UCRs are long ncRNAs (> 200 bp) that are transcribed from 481 ultraconserved regions (UCRs) of the DNA. The genomic elements are considered highly conserved as they are similar across multiple species including human, mouse, and rat. Similar to miRNAs, T-UCRs have been found to be differentially expressed in cancer when compared to normal tissue and have expression patterns that are unique to each cancer-type. This presentation will introduce the biogenesis of these ncRNAs and how they can be utilized in the diagnosis of cancer and exploited as predictors of clinical outcomes.  

Kristianna Fredenburg is an assistant professor and a board-certified anatomic and clinical pathologist in the Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Laboratory Medicine. Her research interest is in identifying the underlying pathogenesis of head and neck cancers among different racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.

Core Standards

Explain the significance of genetic factors, environmental factors, and pathogenic agents to health from the perspectives of both individual and public health.

Discuss the mechanisms for regulation of gene expression in prokaryotes and eukaryotes at transcription and translation level.

Explain the relationship between mutation, cell cycle, and uncontrolled cell growth potentially resulting in cancer.

Evaluate the impact of biotechnology on the individual, society and the environment, including medical and ethical issues

Describe how scientific inferences are drawn from scientific observations and provide examples from the content being studied.

Recognize the role of creativity in constructing scientific questions, methods and explanations.

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