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Using sirtuins to treat cancer

  • Researcher: Dr Sonia Laín
  • Institution: Karolinska Institutet
  • Award Amount: £149,512 for 2 years from April 2013
  • Cancer Type: Leukaemia
Using sirtuins to treat cancer
Many chemotherapy drugs already exist to treat different types of cancer, but unfortunately tumour cells often become resistant to the drug after a period of time. Dr Lan and her team previously discovered a small anti-tumour molecule called tenovin-6. They found that tenovin-6 was able to stop two proteins called sirtuin 1 and sirtuin 2. More recently, other research groups have shown that tenovin-6 can kill stem cells that cause a type of cancer called chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), specifically the stem cells which have become resistant to a type of chemotherapy drug called imatinib (also known as Glivec). It is essential to get rid of these stem cells to avoid the cancer coming back. It is believed that tenovin-6 kills these cells by stopping the sirtuin 1 protein, which is found at very high levels in CML stem cells.

Dr Lan and her team recently identified new molecules that are similar to tenovin-6 that also affect sirtuin 1 and 2. They will use their new grant to carry out further tests on these molecules as well as other tenovin molecules to understand how they work. They will also carry out further tests looking at the new molecules in combination with imatinib to see might be used to enhance imatinib treatment.
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