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Investigating the role of checkpoint activation in cancer resistance to radiotherapy

  • Researcher: Professor Sibylle Mittnacht
  • Institution: University College London
  • Award Amount: £200,576 for 3 years from June 2012
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Investigating the role of checkpoint activation in cancer resistance to radiotherapy
Healthy cells grow and divide in a highly organised and tightly controlled manner in a process called the cell cycle. The cell cycle is made up of several phases, one of which is called G1. Healthy cells have very complex mechanisms to control this process, and when a cell's DNA is damaged, an emergency signal is released, to stop the cell cycle from going any further. This is known as a checkpoint, and ensures that the DNA damage is repaired (checkpoint activation), and prevents the cells from dying as a result. Unfortunately, cancer cells also have these cell cycle checkpoints. This can affect the way that cancer cells respond to treatments such as radiotherapy, which rely on damaging DNA to kill cancer cells.

By understanding the signals involved in checkpoint activation, it might be possible to identify better ways of designing treatments like radiotherapy to prevent cancer cells being able to repair themselves. Professor Mittnacht and her lab have identified several proteins involved in checkpoint signalling, including a protein called STK4. They believe that this protein may be involved in checkpoint activation in cancer cells following radiation (radiotherapy).

She will be using her Worldwide Cancer Research grant to further investigate the role of STK4 in checkpoint activation following radiation, and in cancer cell survival after radiotherapy.
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