The DNA within our cells stores all the information needed to produce proteins, which carry out most of the processes occurring within our cells. The process which produces proteins is called translation, and some of the steps that control translation appear to be changed in cancer cells. The protein mTOR is involved in controlling protein production. Several new cancer treatments work to block, or stop, mTOR from working. Some cancer cells can be resistant to drugs that block mTOR, and that is probably because they use different molecules to control protein production. If scientists can identify these other molecules, they can try to find drugs that will stop these molecules from working in cancer cells.
Professor Biffo's lab has been studying a protein called eIF6, which is involved in controlling translation. In cancer cells, more eIF6 is found than in normal cells, and the protein plays a central role in tumour development and growth. They believe that increasing or decreasing the activity of eIF6 will allow them to control tumour development and growth. Using their new grant, they aim to find changes that affect other molecules through eIF6's role in translation and to see whether these molecules could be used to develop new drug treatments.