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How do molecules switch from being anti-cancer to being able to encourage it?

  • Researcher: Professor Karen Vousden
  • Institution: Beatson Institute for Cancer Research,
  • Award Amount: £185,899 for 3 years from June 2011
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
How do molecules switch from being anti-cancer to being able to encourage it?

Professor Vousden's research focuses on a protein called p53 which has a key role in the body's defence against cancer. p53 causes cells to stop growing or die in response to damage to their DNA. This built-in control mechanism prevents damaged cells from going on to cause cancer. In some cells however the p53 protein can become altered or turned off. This is the case in most cancer cells and is at the heart of why many cells become cancerous. With her Worldwide Cancer Research grant Professor Vousden is investigating altered forms of the p53 protein which have lost their ability to prevent cancer and how, instead, they are able to develop cancer-causing attributes, including helping cells to invade surrounding tissues and spread around the body. Since the altered forms of p53 are only found in cancer cells they could be a potential target for drugs as they would only affect these cells and not the healthy ones.

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