Putting cancer cells to sleep
Professor Jesus Gil and his team at Imperial College London are using funding from Worldwide Cancer Research to understand how specific genetic mutations can lead to liver cells becoming cancerous in the hope that weaknesses can be exposed for the treatment.
Senescence is used to describe the biological process cells go through when they effectively go into hibernation. It’s a very useful mechanism and helps prevent cancer from forming by shutting down cells that are at high risk of becoming cancerous. It’s not a surprise then to find out that the molecules that control senescence are often switched off in cancer. Genetic mutations that switch off an important molecular controller of senescence, called SW1/SNF, are common in liver cancer but also thought to be present in around 20% of all cancers. Finding a way to target this feature could lead to a treatment in many different types of cancer.
Professor Gil wants to study SWI/SNF to work out exactly how it controls senescence. This will provide information useful for identifying ways to target cancer cells where senescence isn’t working properly.