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Investigating liver cancer

  • Researcher: Professor Wilhelm Krek
  • Institution: ETH Zurich
  • Award Amount: £175,554 for 2 years from January 2012
  • Cancer Type: Liver Cancer
Investigating liver cancer

Primary liver cancer is quite rare. In total, about 3,600 cases are diagnosed in the UK each year and it is more common in men than in women. However, for those that do get it the outlook is poor because by the time someone has symptoms and goes to their doctor, the disease is very often in the advanced stages. Only about 1 out of 10 people (10%) are diagnosed in the early stages of this disease when surgery can help. Worldwide Cancer Research have recently awarded a grant to Professor Wilhelm Krek to study how liver cancer begins. Cells have a complex internal system of genes and proteins which control everything they do. These genes and proteins are organised into pathways in which the first activates the second and that activates the third, and so on, passing the activation signal down the pathway. Several signalling pathways are involved in controlling how cells grow and divide and can become significantly altered in cancer cells. One of these, known as the mTOR pathway, is known to be turned on in liver cancer and has been linked to poor survival for patients. One of the molecules at the end of the mTOR signalling pathway is URI. URI is often found at high levels in liver cancer and correlates with increased cell growth and poor patient survival. It is thought that it is involved in switching off cell suicide messages and promoting cell survival in cancer cells. With his Worldwide Cancer Research grant Professor Krek therefore intends to investigate how it does this.

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