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Running out of time: telomeres and cancer

  • Researcher: Professor Yehuda Tzfati
  • Institution: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • Award Amount: £228,271 for 3 years from January 2015
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Running out of time: telomeres and cancer
Professor Tzfati is studying the basic processes that drive cancer. In this project he is focusing on bits of DNA called telomeres, and how they are involved. Telomeres sit at the end of DNA strands and act like plastic caps on shoelaces-protecting the DNA ends from fraying and degrading over time. Every time a cell divides the telomere ends get a bit shorter, until they get so short they can no longer protect the DNA and facilitate healthy cell division. This shortening process has been linked with aging and there is currently a lot of media attention surrounding the ongoing research in this area. But it's also been linked to cancer, because unprotected telomeres may result in damage that can drive cancer development, and because cancer cells can stop telomeres from shortening- enabling them to carry on dividing indefinitely. Professor Tzfati and his team are investigating the molecular processes that enable cells to accumulate cancer-driving DNA mutations and to stop their telomeres from shortening. His long-term goal is to understand the risk of cancer in healthy people who carry mutations associated with telomere problems, and to determine if the molecules involved in this process could be potential targets for developing new anticancer treatments.
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