Interview with Carlo M. Croce, MD
Keynote Speaker at the 2013 OTS Annual Meeting
Director of Human Cancer Genetics
Chairman of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics
Director of the Institute of Genetics
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center
Carlo M. Croce is an Italian Medical Doctor and Oncologist noted for research into the genetic mechanisms of cancer. Croce is one of the most highly recognized and awarded Italian researchers in the world, and is currently involved in the study of microRNAs and their role in oncology. Croce received numerous awards including the 2006 Clowes Memorial Award from the American Association for Cancer Research for his discoveries of the molecular mechanisms of Leukemia.In 2010, he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.Based on his merit in the field of science, he was awarded the honour of Cavaliere di Gran Croce by the President of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and is ranked first on the Italian Academy’s list of the 715 Italian scientists having the most impact on medical research around the world.
Q: How did you get involved in the field of microRNAs?
A: It was because I was looking for a gene on chromosome 13q14, a chromosomal region that is deleted in most CLLs. I could not find the gene, but I found two long encoding microRNAs (miR-15a and miR-16-1). That was the first evidence that non coding genes can be involved in disease, particularly in cancer.
Q: What excites you most about microRNA biology? What about the potential of microRNAs as drug targets? What are the opportunities and challenges?
A: It is quite exciting to see that microRNAs are involved in the control of expression of most, if not all, genes. Every pathway is regulated by microRNAs. They are wonderful targets: if they are lost they can be replaced; if they are overexpressed we can reduce their expression by using anti microRNAs (antisense molecules). The opportunities are enormous. The challenge is to target microRNAs to all tissues of interest.
Q: Do you think that antisense drugs will be the only practical approach to down regulate microRNAs for therapeutic applications? Are there other possibilities?
A: Yes, MicroRNAs should not be confused with the old antisense molecules. They work in a totally different way. In addition, microRNAs and anti microRNAs are very stable.
Q: Do you think that microRNA mimetics will reach patients as a new drug discovery approach?
A: Absolutely, YES!