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Turning off cancer

15 June 2007

A way of switching off the development and growth of certain cancer cells has been identified.

Results to date have proved so positive that the University team now plans to develop the drug compound to a point at which it would be close to entering clinical trials, using funding of £2.8 million from the Wellcome Trust's Seeding Drug Discovery initiative.

The ability of cells to commit suicide, or apoptosis, is an important and normal process in the body's development. All cells contain an enzyme called protein kinase B (PKB) which, when activated, triggers a signal that prevents apoptosis.Certain types of genetic damage, common to many cancer cells, lead to the movement of PKB from the interior of the cell to its surface membrane. When this happens, PKB becomes active, halting apoptosis. Professor Tavaré, lead scientist on the project, believes that by preventing PKB binding to the cell’s membrane he can ensure that apoptosis continues, thereby driving the cancer cells to commit suicide and preventing them from forming tumours.

Department of Biochemistry

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