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Exploring liver cancer's weak spot as a new target for therapy

Researcher
Professor Raul Mendez
Country
Research Institute
Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), Spain
Cancer types
Liver cancer
Award amount
£217,000
Professor Raul Mendez

Aim of the research

Professor Mendez aims to better understand how a cellular “master regulator” impacts the development of liver cancer and how this might be targeted for treatment.

Meet the scientist

Raul Mendez was born in Madrid and a passionate climber (in his own words) “before age took its toll”. Now science and his family are his full-time passions, as well as training their newest furry family member.

More about the research project

More people are dying of liver cancer than ever before. The steep rise of diagnosed cases since the 1980s and the lack of effective treatments are the likely cause for the poor survival rates. The snowballing numbers of people diagnosed with liver cancer are coupled with an increase of risk factors, such as obesity. Obesity can result in a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Fat is deposited in the liver, leading to inflammation, scarring and, in rare cases, liver cancer.

This sustained stress on the liver can “hijack” the normal stress response of liver cells, making them more likely to turn cancerous.  Professor Raul Mendez and his team are now trying to find out how this process works and whether it can be targeted with drugs. Professor Mendez is particularly interested in a group of proteins called CPEBs. These proteins are master regulators of many cellular functions. Understanding how these proteins enable tumour growth could hold the key for new anti-cancer therapies.

We hope we will identify a new family of antitumoral targets and, eventually, drugs with less secondary effects that could be used in combination with current treatments, in particular in cancer immunotherapies.