Cancer Conundrum Cracked

Cancer researchers at the University of Dundee have just turned a common cancer belief on its head saying that a group of proteins previously believed to cause cancer can also be used in the fight against cancer.

Dr Neil Perkins and his team in the School of Life Sciences have identified that NF-kappaB a group of proteins present in every cell in the human body can actually assist some cancer therapies such as chemo and radio therapy. They believe that this discovery will allow clinicians to predict more accurately how tumours will respond to cancer therapy improving treatment for cancer patients.

Neil explains: “The group of proteins NF-kappaB are like a number in a combination lock. Sometimes they are present in the combination which turns on genes and causes cancer but now we know that they can also be found in the combination which switches off the genes, preventing cancer”.

This discovery was made in a laboratory with cell culture. Neil and his team now hope to establish that what they have found in the lab is also the case in the human body. They now need to generate the tools that will allow them to see if this is occurring in real tumours.

An important question to answer before cancer treatment can start is how will the tumour respond to therapy? This needs to be predicted so that the correct amount and type of treatment can be given to the patient. Neil and his team believe that their new discovery will allow them to predict more accurately patient responses to therapy.

Neil continues : “If we could now find drugs that more specifically mimic the effects on NF-kappaB that we are seeing they would also have good potential as anti cancer drugs.”

The paper which will be published in the journal Molecular Cell this Friday (26 March) was written by Dr Neil Perkins, Kirsteen Campbell and Sonia Rocha all in the Division of Gene Regulation and Expression in the School of Life Sciences.

Neil Perkins holds a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. Kirsteen is funded by the Wellcome Trust and Sonia is funded by a grant from Cancer Research UK.

Media Contact

Jenny Marra University of Dundee

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