Association for International Cancer Research (AICR)-funded research by the director of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, Professor Karen Vousden, could lead to more effective anti-cancer drugs.
Thanks to a £185,899 grant from AICR Professor Vousden will examine how molecules switch from being anti-cancer to being able to encourage it.
Her research focuses on a protein called p53 which has a key role in the body's defence against cancer, causing cells to stop growing or die in response to damage to their DNA.
“This built-in control mechanism prevents damaged cells from going on to cause cancer,” she explained. “In some cells however the p53 protein can become altered or turned off. This is the case in most cancer cells and is at the heart of why many become cancerous.”
Her three-year AICR grant will allow Professor Vousden to investigate altered forms of the p53 protein which have lost their ability to prevent cancer and how, instead, they are able to develop cancer-causing attributes and help cells invade surrounding tissues and spread around the body. “Since the altered forms of p53 are only found in cancer cells, they could be a potential target for drugs as they would only affect those cells and not the healthy ones,” she added.
Dr Lara Bennett, Science Communications Manager for AICR said: “It is this kind of basic research that is vital to help us understand the fundamental causes of cancer. As the p53 protein is altered or turned off in over half of all cancers this research could benefit many different types of cancer. Only by more fully understanding what goes wrong in the first place can we then try to develop better treatments in the future with fewer side effects for patients.”