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Investigating how tumour-promoting genes cause DNA damage

  • Researcher: Dr Eva Petermann
  • Institution: University of Birmingham, England
  • Award Amount: £190,295 for 3 years from November 2013
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Investigating how tumour-promoting genes cause DNA damage
Cancer can be caused by damage or alterations to our DNA which makes up our genes. This damage can be caused by many things such as from UV from sunlight or mistakes when the DNA is being copied, in a process called DNA replication, as the cells grow and divide.  Cancer can also be driven by the ‘switching on’ of tumour-promoting genes, called oncogenes, which themselves can allow mistakes when the DNA is copied as cells grow and divide.DNA is a special code but in order for it to make sense, it must first be decoded and put into a different code called RNA.  This is like having instructions for flat packed furniture that were written in a foreign language so you first have to copy the instructions into the correct language before you could build the furniture, or in this case, proteins.  This important decoding process, called transcription, can be altered by oncogenes.  The loss of control over transcription can cause physical problems between the two sets of machinery that are making new DNA and transcribing it and this can also lead to damaged DNA.  Dr Petermann is using her Worldwide Cancer Research grant to unravel this extremely complex relationship between DNA replication and transcription which is being driven by oncogenes.  This work is important as drugs which work by stopping transcription are being developed as anti-cancer treatments. It is therefore important scientists understand what is happening inside cancer cells and how the drugs may then work and what effects they will have inside the cell, thus improving the efficiency of the drugs.
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