Finding new treatment targets by tackling cancer’s immortality
Dr Lee Wong and her team are investigating how cancer cells avoid death to help identify new targets for cancer therapy.
Hope for the future
One of the hallmarks of cancer is that cancer cells can avoid cell death and just keep on dividing. In 15% of all cancers, specific mutations to genes that control how cancer cells divide result in cancer cells becoming immortal. Dr Wong is trying to better understand these mutations in the hope of finding new treatment targets for these cancers.
Meet the scientist
When not in the lab, Dr Lee Wong is a keen traveller. She also enjoys watching documentaries on house design and taking plenty of walks.
Telomeres are stretches of DNA that protect our chromosomes – a little like the plastic tag at the end of your shoelaces. Each time a human cell divides, its telomeres become progressively shorter. Eventually, they reach a length which signals the cell to stop dividing. In cancer cells, the genes that control telomeres are often mutated, allowing the cancer cells to continue dividing endlessly.
In this project, Dr Wong and her team are investigating how mutations in two key genes that regulate telomeres allow cancer cells to evade the “stop” signal from short telomeres and continue dividing. Their findings will help identify new targets that could be used to treat cancers with these mutations.
Without basic research, there will be no new knowledge that can be translated into new treatment strategies. Discovery research allows us to ask questions that are novel and to break new ground.Dr Lee Wong
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