Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNAs

Co-Directors: Anil K. Sood, M.D. and George A. Calin, M.D., Ph.D.

The highly efficient delivery of short-interfering RNA (siRNA, shown in red) is illustrated in this image. The siRNA was packaged in neutral nanoliposomes which were intravenously injected into mouse models. The target: ovarian cancer cells (blue).

The Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNAs (RNA Center), established under the Red and Charline McCombs Institute for the Early Detection and Treatment of Cancer, is a unique collaborative initiative among MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Rice University and the University of Houston that will focus on gaining insights into the roles of newly discovered RNAs in cancer initiation, progression and dissemination. 


To identify, engineer and accelerate breakthroughs in non-coding RNA (ncRNA) discoveries leading to cancer biomarkers and therapeutics.



Building on existing clinical research at MD Anderson Cancer Center through collaborations and membership to the RNA Center to create a ncRNA-centric effort to drive discovery of molecular markers of cancer by evaluating, co-developing, facilitating and disseminating novel ncRNA technologies.


Creating an institution-wide ncRNA resource to collaborate and lend expertise in the ncRNA and RNAi areas of clinical and basic research.


With promise in broad areas ranging from relief of cancer-related chronic pain to management of deadly brain metastasis, RNAi has potential applications for every type of cancer. RNAi offers a powerful and highly specific method for shutting off genes that promote cancer growth. Our researchers aim to develop this potential across the full continuum of cancer care.

MicroRNA and other short or long non-coding RNAs alterations are involved in the initiation, progression and metastases of human cancer. The main molecular alterations are represented by variations in gene expression, usually mild and with consequences for a vast number of target protein coding genes. The causes of the widespread differential expression of non-coding RNAs in malignant compared with normal cells can be explained by the location of these genes in cancer-associated genomic regions, by epigenetic mechanisms and by alterations in the processing machinery.

Expression profiling of microRNA and other short or long non-coding RNAs in human tumors has identified signatures associated with diagnosis, staging, progression, prognosis and response to treatment. In addition, profiling has been exploited to identify non-coding RNAs that may represent downstream targets of activated oncogenic pathways or that are targeting protein coding genes involved in cancer. Recent studies proved that miRNAs and non-coding ultraconserved genes are main candidates for the elusive class of cancer predisposing genes and that other types of non-coding RNAs participate in the genetic puzzle giving rise to the malignant phenotype. These discoveries could be exploited for the development of useful markers for diagnosis and prognosis, as well as for the development of new RNA-based cancer therapies.