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The research keeping more women alive this Mother’s Day

Together breast and ovarian cancer claim the lives of 42 women every day in the UK alone. That’s 42 mothers, daughter, sisters, aunts and friends. That's 42 women who might otherwise be spending Mothers Day with their families. We’re supporting researchers who are trying to save more women from dying of these diseases.

Working to help reach this goal is Dr Alice Soragni at the University of California in Los Angeles.  She is focussing on ovarian cancer, an aggressive cancer type that claims thousands of lives each year.

soragni-alice-in-lab

New treatments for ovarian cancer

Dr Soragni's lab aims to develop new therapies for ovarian cancer by targeting the protein p53.  This protein normally protects cells from becoming cancerous but is switched off, or inactivated, in many cancers, including ovarian cancer. Most often, it is inactivated by mutations, which are very common in ovarian cancer. These mutations cause p53 to lose its shape and ‘clump up’ in the form of protein aggregates.

Dr Soragni explains “Our project focuses on targeting these p53 aggregates in ovarian cancer stem cells, which are believed to be involved in the initiation of cancer. In our quest for a new treatment, we developed a peptide, called ReACp53, which has shown great promise so far.  We are investigating if, and how, ReACp53 makes ovarian cancer stem cells more susceptible to traditional therapies. Your support propels our research efforts that will facilitate taking ReACp53 into clinical trials in patients in the near future.”

The need for research is as strong as ever

“Despite the progress, too many lives are still lost to cancer each and every day. We need to do better. And the only way to do better is to continue funding research. Scientists need support to explore innovative, high-risk ideas that may open novel and unexpected therapeutic avenues as well as propel advancement of promising leads to the clinic.” Dr Soragni said.

You can follow her lab's progress on Twitter.

Overcoming drug resistance in breast cancer

Dr Anna Git at the University of Cambridge is looking at why women are resistant to treatment for breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in the UK, accounting for 15% of all cancers diagnosed.

She told us: "Among the greatest challenges in the treatment of breast cancer is the resistance to chemotherapy. This often happens because cancer increases the abundance of molecules that can inactivate the drug or kick it out of the cell.”

dr-anna-git-1

Dr Git is studying RNA, which is a temporary copy of DNA.  She is particularly interested in short RNAs, called Vault RNAs* (vtRNAs) of which there are several types. Two vtRNAs can attach to and isolate certain chemotherapy drugs, preventing their activity. Encouraging results have that altering a number of vtRNAs in some lab-grown cancer cells made them much more susceptible to chemotherapy.

She is now investigating how vtRNAs attach to a broad selection of drugs and altering vtRNA levels inside cells to affect drug resistance in different types of breast cancer. Finally, she will identify proteins that recognise vtRNAs to understand how vtRNAs lead to drug resistance.

“I hope that if we can understand which tumours are resistant to which chemotherapy, we can help improve the quality of life of many patients. It could mean that patients who would never respond to treatment avoid futile toxicity from the drugs and alternative treatments could be used much earlier on.”

What’s even more remarkable is that Dr Git is doing all this whilst working part-time so she can spend time with her three children.

This Mothers day, let your Mum or a loved one know you are thinking of them with Dedicate a Moment, a website which lets you choose an image,  personalise it, then share it with someone you care about. Visit www.dedicateamoment.org.

References:

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer#heading-Zero

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vault_RNA

Science Communication Manager at Worldwide Cancer Research

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