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Altered communication pathways in cancer cells

  • Researcher: Dr Cathy Tournier
  • Institution: The University of Manchester
  • Award Amount: £207,720 for 4 years from June 2010
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Altered communication pathways in cancer cells
Cells in every organism have the ability to respond to signals from their environment. External stimuli trigger a cascade of events inside the cell which leads to a change in the cells behaviour. These internal systems are known as cell signalling pathways and one of them, the ERK5 pathway, is the focus of Dr Tournier's group. In particular, they are researching how alterations in ERK5 signalling causes cells to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner, forming a tumour. Their research uses a novel, genetically modified mouse model which has had ERK5 removed from the skin cells. In human cancers high levels of ERK5 are linked to shorter disease-free intervals, an increased risk of cancer spread (metastasis) and resistance to chemotherapy. Consequently, one potential important outcome of this study funded by Worldwide Cancer Research is the validation of ERK5 as a drug target which will provide scientists with a new and exciting opportunity to intervene at specific stages of tumour formation in humans. A number of similar drugs known as "protein kinase inhibitors" are already successfully used for cancer treatment.
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