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Investigating how cancer cells multiply and avoid dying

  • Researcher: Professor Paul Clarke
  • Institution: University of Dundee, Scotland
  • Award Amount: £164,089 for 3 years from September 2012
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Investigating how cancer cells multiply and avoid dying
Healthy cells grow and then divide to form two new cells in a highly organised and tightly controlled manner. Cancer can occur when the cells become able to grow and divide more rapidly in an uncontrolled manner, leading to the development of tumours. Cancer cells are also often resistant to cell death and are able to divide even when they are damaged. These differences can be an advantage, however, if the mechanisms that prevent the normal death of damaged cells can be overcome, because cancer cells can be killed selectively whilst leaving healthy cells unharmed.Professor Clarke is using his Worldwide Cancer Research grant to study a molecule called Mcl-1 which is found at high levels in many cancer cells. Mcl-1 has an important role in preventing damaged cells from dying, including during the cell division process. If cancer cells are treated with drugs like Taxol, then Mcl-1 is often destroyed and the cells can be killed. However, other molecules work against this mechanism and can prevent Mcl-1 being destroyed, leading to resistance to the drug. Therefore, if researchers can find a way to turn off these opposing molecules, this could allow Mcl-1 to be removed more effectively and ensure the cancer cells die in response to drugs like Taxol.
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