The aims of our research are to contribute to a better understanding of the role of non-coding RNAs in cancer development. Taking advantage of existing cancer registers and large sample collections preserved in our large and well catalogued biobanks, we focus our efforts principally on the study of breast cancer. The motivation behind our research can be divided in two fields. First, to learn how non-coding RNAs regulate and promote carcinogenesis and secondly, to identify non-coding transcripts that can be used as biomarkers.
Our research is interdisciplinary. It combines experimental laboratory work with bioinformatics. To characterize the expression of non-coding RNAs in normal tissues, breast tumors and circulating body fluids we apply massive parallel sequencing techniques. This information is used to find known non-coding genes associated with the disease and to identify new human non-coding RNAs that could be of importance. Interesting genes are selected for in depth studies. This strategy led us to: a) The identification of several hundreds new human miRNA genes, b) The identification of new human miRNAs that map to important genomic regions amplified in breast tumors, c) The characterization of new mechanisms for the production of miRNA-like molecules from non-miRNA precursors.