£1.4m grant to unlock mystery of cancer cells
UNIVERSITY researchers hope to unlock the mystery of how cancer cells “steal the keys” to the bodies normal functions, thanks to a £1.4 million award.
The money from Cancer Research UK will be used by Dr Mathew Coleman to try to discover how cancer disrupt healthy cell growth and function.
Dr Coleman and his team, of the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences at the University of Birmingham, will receive the money over six years as he researches three specific proteins that are thought to have a role in cancer.
Although this research focuses on gastrointestinal cancer, the team’s findings will likely be applicable to a variety of other tumour types.
Dr Coleman said: “The proteins in our cells all have different roles. We are interested in three particular proteins, which are all enzymes that act as ‘locksmiths’ for other proteins.
“Usually, these enzymes, called ‘oxygenases’, work by attaching an oxygen molecule to specific parts of other proteins, which generally turns them on.
“This is a bit like a locksmith putting a key in a lock – once the door is opened, it ‘unlocks’ processes in a cell that ensure it develops normally and that everything is properly controlled.
“We have found that these enzyme ‘locksmiths’ become faulty in cancer, meaning they’re unable to attach oxygen molecules to other proteins properly.
“This means the door remains shut, and certain processes are ‘locked out’. We think that this can lead to abnormal cell growth and function, which can lead to cancer. It’s as if cancer has stolen the keys from these locksmiths.”
Dr Mathew Coleman