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A new approach to stop cancer cells dividing

  • Researcher: Dr Daniel Fisher
  • Institution: Institute of Molecular Genetics, Montpellier, France
  • Award Amount: £199,090 for 3 years from 1st January 2016
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
A new approach to stop cancer cells dividing
Dr Daniel Fisher is trying to block a protein present in dividing cells called Ki-67 in order to study its effects on tumour cell survival. He explains “At the root of all cancers is a deregulated cell proliferation where cells multiply rapidly forming a tumour. Most cancers are graded by laboratory analysis of a protein only present in proliferating cells called Ki-67. Whether or not this protein is merely a marker for cell proliferation, or whether it is required for cell proliferation and cancer, is not known.”

He continued "We have recently found that Ki-67 is dispensable for cell proliferation. However, it acts indirectly by organising the genome (DNA) within the cell nucleus, and for reasons that we don’t yet understand, it appears to be required for cells to survive inside a tumour. This suggests that it could potentially be used as a therapeutic target for cancer treatments.

Many cancer drugs target cell proliferation directly, and these can be toxic for healthy cells. We would like to find a drug that either prevents Ki-67 from appearing in cells without affecting cell division, or blocks its functions. In this project, we will use mouse genetic models to analyse whether blocking Ki-67 can protect against liver and colon cancers. We will further analyse how Ki-67 allows tumour cell survival. Finally, we will investigate whether its downstream effectors, that control gene activity, can explain its pro-tumour functions."
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