Dr Falconer, a Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry based in the Institute of Cancer Therapeutics at the University of Bradford explains: “On the surface of cancer cells there is a long molecule, called polysialic acid, which is made up of about 200 identical simple sugars linked together.
“Polysialic acid has been found on the surface of a number of different human cancers. When these cancer cells start to spread, they appear to get more polysialic acid on their surface. We believe that this helps these cells ‘unstick’ from their neighbouring cells, so they can start invading the surrounding tissues and moving away from the original tumour.
“Our idea is quite simple. If we can stop these cancer cells making so much polysialic acid, they won’t find it so easy to spread. Cancers that don’t spread, or only spread slowly, are less dangerous and are easier to cure.”
Dr Mark Matfield, AICR’s scientific adviser says the surface of cells carries a complex mixture of proteins and sugars. “In the past, most scientific attention has been directed at the differences in the proteins but Dr Falconer is particularly interested in the differences in the sugars found on cancer cells.
“The long molecules of polysialic acid are built up by adding one simple sugar, called sialic acid, at a time to the growing molecule. Dr Falconer will use altered versions of the sialic acid molecule to block the enzymes that build these long polysialic acid molecules.”
Dr Falconer has already made several variations of the normal sialic acid molecule. He will chemically synthesise many other different varieties of these unnatural sugars and, with colleagues at the Institute, will test their ability to block the enzymes that build polysialic acid.
Initially, these tests will be carried out using purified versions of these enzymes. Those molecules that are found to block polysialic acid synthesis will then be tested directly on cancer cells growing in the laboratory, to make sure that they have the same effect on the cells. The final stage of the project will be to find out if these molecules, which stop cancer cells making polysialic acid, also stop the cells moving and spreading.
Derek Napier, AICR Chief Executive, says the charity has awarded a three-year research grant of £142,000 to Dr Falconer, which should enable him to identify a number of molecules that block cancer cell spreading. “This is an exciting project and is given in line with AICR’s policy of funding the most novel approaches to research worldwide.
“However, there will need to be further analyses and testing – taking several more years - before it is known whether these molecules will make effective drugs to help treat cancer.”
Emma Banks | alfa
Switch-in-a-cell electrifies life
18.12.2018 | Rice University
Plant biologists identify mechanism behind transition from insect to wind pollination
18.12.2018 | University of Toronto
Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy