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Understanding the conflicting processes of cancer cell survival and death

  • Researcher: Professor Seamus J Martin
  • Institution: Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
  • Award Amount: £129,404 for 3 years from January 2014
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Understanding the conflicting processes of cancer cell survival and death
If cells become damaged, they can activate a suicide mechanism called apoptosis. Several cancer drugs work by trying to take advantage of this and forcing the damaged cancer cells to self-destruct. A molecule called Fas has previously been identified as a trigger for apoptosis and drugs have been designed to turn Fas on. However, there had been reports of Fas having other counteractive roles in cell movement and cell growth. Fas has been found at high levels in cancers of the kidney and ovaries suggesting that Fas may play a pro-cancer role as these cells often fail to undergo apoptosis. To agree with this, recent studies have found that cancer cell growth, tumour progression and invasion into surrounding tissues can all be impaired by turning off Fas. Therefore, instead of triggering the cancer cells to die, the cells can actually benefit from having high levels of Fas. With his Worldwide Cancer Research grant Professor Martin is aiming to investigate these pro-cancer roles of Fas in certain cancer. He expects that his findings could be real game changers which will alter everyoneUs current perspectives of Fas and could have serious implications for research on drugs that try to turn on Fas in the hope of triggering apoptosis.
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