Close up of researcher working with samples in a lab

Research projects

Chemotherapy and chromosomes: understanding the connection

Dr Ylli Doksani
Project period
Mar 2024 - Feb 2027
Research Institute
The AIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology
Cancer types
General cancer research
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Ylli Doksani and his team in Italy are exploring a protein called telomerase which appears to have an impact on the outcomes of chemotherapy treatment. They hope to reveal new targets for therapy which could lead to successful treatment for more people.

Hope for the future

Chemotherapy is one of the most common cancer treatments. Around 1 in 4 cancer cases in the UK are treated with some form of chemotherapy. It works by using very strong drugs to damage and kill cancer cells. Although it helps a lot of people, chemotherapy does not work for everyone or for every cancer type and sometimes cancer can become resistant to treatment over time.

Dr Ylli Doksani and his team hope they can better understand the role of the enzyme telomerase in hindering current chemotherapies. Telomerase is switched off in normal cells but is switched on in around 9 out of 10 tumours, making it a promising target for therapy. By better understanding how telomerase behaves in cancer cells, the researchers hope to find potential new therapy targets leading to new cancer cures.


Cells where the telomeres are stained in red

Meet the scientist

When he's not in the lab, Dr Doksani loves to play soccer – he has played since he was little, and says “It's fun, it keeps me fit, it helps relieve stress and it's a great social activity!”

If he had to pick, two books that he has found truly inspiring are Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman and The Black Swan, by Nassim Taleb.

The science

The DNA in your cells is organised into chromosomes. At the ends of our chromosomes sit structures called telomeres which protect the chromosomes from becoming damaged. Every time a cell divides, the telomeres become slightly shorter. Eventually the telomeres become so short that the cell cannot divide and the cell dies.

Cancer cells are able to divide uncontrollably which should cause the telomeres to become very short and the cell to die.  Most cancer cells avoid dying this way though because they have a protein called telomerase that lengthens the telomeres.

Dr Ylli Doksani believes that telomerase might be playing a role in helping cancer cells survive chemotherapy treatment and that telomerase may also be influencing other properties of cancer cells. In this project Dr Doksani and his team will investigate these ideas using a variety of techniques including a “mini-chromosome system” created by their lab to look at cell division.  

Dr Ylli Doksani
I hope that our experiments will help clinicians design better therapies that kill cancer cells without harmful side effects on the healthy tissues.

Become a Curestarter and help us fund the next pioneering research project.

Our research projects wouldn’t be possible without the funds we receive from people like you. £37 pays for an hour of research and every hour brings us closer to new cures.

Support Us

Join our monthly newsletter

Keep up to date with all our latest news, events, groundbreaking research discoveries and much more!

You're now a Curestarter!

Our newsletter usually drops towards the end of each month

Thanks for subscribing