BIDMC Cancer Center Launches Institute for RNA Medicine

Researchers will study non-coded RNA to improve cancer treatment and diagnosis.

The Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has launched the Institute for RNA Medicine (iRM), a research institution where scientists from multiple disciplines will explore new ways of treating and diagnosing cancer.

The institute, which will be housed in the Center for Life Sciences building adjacent to BIDMC, is among the first of its kind to focus on non-coding RNA (or RNA that does not encode a protein). According to a BIDMC report, studying non-coded RNA should help scientists better understand the human genome.

“Scientific research over the past decade has concentrated almost exclusively on the two percent of the genome’s protein coding regions, ignoring the other 98 percent, a vast universe of non-coding genetic material previously dismissed as nothing more than ‘junk,’” said Cancer Center Director Pier Paolo Pandolfi in a statement. “It is now apparent that these non-coding RNAs contain a wealth of crucial clues to both health and disease that will guide us in our quest to understand the mysteries of cancer and to develop therapies to cure this deadly disease.”

Under the direction of molecular biologist Frank Slack, iRM researchers will investigate non-coded RNA’s contributions to the development of blood, breast, prostate, and lung cancers, as well as its relation to other diseases, like Alzheimer’s and diabetes. They will also conduct streamlined clinical trials involving both humans and mice to evaluate the effectiveness of potential new treatments.

“This is the time to invest in the promise of non-coding RNAs,” says iRM co-founder John Rinn in a statement. “Over the past decade, we have developed an integrative approach combining human disease risk genetics, experimental and computational biology tools to identify key RNA candidates. Thus we have honed in on the non-coding regions that have the greatest change to impact human health and disease.”