1250 GMT November 12, 2019
A scientist at the University of Birmingham has received a £1.4 million award from Cancer Research UK to carry out research that could discover how cancer ‘steals the keys’ from the body’s locksmiths, express.co.uk wrote.
Dr. Mathew Coleman, of the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences at the University of Birmingham, is set to receive £1.4 million over six years to find out more about three specific proteins that are thought to have a role in cancer.
Although this research focuses on gastrointestinal cancer such as stomach cancer and cancer of the intestines, their findings will likely be able to be applied to other tumor types.
The proteins in our body play a range of roles, including controlling energy production, cell growth and cell function.
However, if these proteins become faulty, it can affect how they work, causing them and important cells to go out of control.
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.
“What is amazing is that such a small thing — not being able to place a ‘key’ in a ‘lock’ – has the potential to have a domino effect that disrupts cell growth and function, causing cells to go awry and turn cancerous.”
Coleman’s team will study both human tissue and cells donated by cancer patients in a bid to discover new treatments for patients.
Coleman said, “If we can find out more about how oxygenases become faulty and the consequences of this in cancer cells, we may be able to identify and develop new drugs that target the cellular processes they control.
“Or, we may be able to develop drugs that act as a ‘skeleton key’ that does their job for them.
“We’re incredibly grateful to the patients who donate their tumor samples to research; their contribution is making a real impact in allowing researchers like me to understand cancer.
“We’re also extremely thankful to the people who support Cancer Research UK because without them, our work would not be possible.”
Cancer Research UK aims to raise money to accelerate ground-breaking research to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer and help more people survive the disease.