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How are cancer cells protected from nutritional stress?

  • Researcher: Dr Janni Petersen
  • Institution: Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
  • Award Amount: £188,512 for 3 years from 1st April 2016
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
How are cancer cells protected from nutritional stress?
Dr Janni Petersen is examining the cell's nutrient and energy ‘sensor proteins’ and how they protect cancer cells from nutritional stress.

Dr Petersen explains “Cancer is a disease of uncontrolled cell growth and division. The AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is the cell’s main energy sensor. AMPK provides protection against cancer, in part through its control of the Target Of Rapamycin (TOR) protein. TOR is a nutrient sensing enzyme that co-ordinates cell growth and division with the nutrient environment.

Because tumour cells multiply in environments with limited nutrient supplies, they are usually what we call nutritionally stressed. Importantly, AMPK and TOR signalling is altered in most tumours. Hence, better understanding of nutritional control of these signalling pathways offers great potential for better selective therapeutic strategies.”

She told us “The inspiring and key thing about perusing scientific research is when you make new discoveries that contribute to the general understanding of biology especially when these discoveries are likely to contribute to the development of improved cures for diseases like cancer.”
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