Dr Raphael Ceccaldi and his team are studying a new weakness their research has identified in cancer, which could lay the foundations for the future development of new targeted treatments.
In 2020, over 2.2 million people worldwide were diagnosed with breast cancer, and it caused the death of over 680,000 people. Most of these deaths were caused by the cancer progressing to an advanced stage where current treatments stop working. It’s critical that we find new effective treatments that can help the thousands of people that are left with no other options.
Dr Raphael Ceccaldi hopes that by understanding a new molecular process his team have discovered in the lab, they will be able to identify a new vulnerability in cancer that could open the door to the development of new treatments for breast, ovarian and even other types of cancer.
Dr Raphael Ceccaldi is a big fan of operas, especially those by Puccini and Richard Strauss because “the harmony of opera can be thought of as a proxy for harmony in biological processes. Opera can be overt and evident to the listener, but also still contain pieces that we miss. This is the kind of complex problem I have always been fascinated to solve”.
Many breast and ovarian cancers can be characterised by genetic mutations that disrupt the molecular machinery cells use to repair damage to their DNA. This defective repair of DNA can ultimately lead to the formation of cancer. However, this defect can also be exploited as a weakness to kill cancer cells.
Dr Ceccaldi and his team have recently discovered a completely new process in cells whereby this defective repair of DNA causes a phenomenon called “nuclear envelope rupture”, which in turn can cause cellular characteristics associated with cancer. The nuclear envelope surrounds the nucleus of a cell and protects the DNA contained inside. Dr Ceccaldi now wants to understand exactly how this process occurs to identify potential new ways to target cancer cells that have defects in how they repair damage to their DNA.
The research team have also recently discovered that blocking molecules that fix ruptured nuclear envelopes can specifically kill cells with defective DNA repair. They believe that this could be a new vulnerability for cancer and will study the molecular mechanisms behind it to help develop new therapeutic options for cancer.
It is critical to fund basic research because it brings new knowledge to society. Like cancer, most of the problems of the world still come down to a lack of knowledge.Dr Raphael Ceccaldi
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