Development of an approach to cause the death of cancer cells in the blood

Cancer cells have a unique property from normal cells. Targeting this property could selectively kill cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact.

Cells divide, and the amount and extent that this occurs is controlled by mechanisms in the body. Sometimes this control is lost and results in the growth and formation of a cell. Routine drugs used in chemotherapy are intended to block cell division in tumours to stop further growth. However, these drugs are not specific towards cancer cells – normal dividing cells and nerve cells are also affected. This is why tingling or a numbing sensation occurs as a side effect to chemotherapy. Response to the drugs also stops in some patients, reducing the number of options for cancer treatment. Strategies to specifically target and kill dividing cancer cells may be an option.

Targetting an event that only occurs in cancer cells leave healthy cells unaffected

Hope is funding a project to develop a new chemotherapy strategy, which is more effective than current options and with fewer side effects. Centrosomes are structures in a cell with an important role in cell division. Normal cells have 2 centrosomes, but some cancer cells have more. In a cell with too many centrosomes, the centrosomes cluster together in the cell. It is thought that de-clustering the centrosomes may cause the cell to die. Because clustering only occurs in cancer cells, a drug that de-clusters centrosomes will only target cancer cells and leave normal cells unaffected. This decreases the side effects associated with chemotherapy.

Better understanding of how centrosome clustering occurs will hopefully provide the information needed to stop this. Ultimately, it is hoped that new chemotherapy drugs will be developed from the research.

This award of £40,000 was given to Prof Richard Bayliss at the University of Leicester and is a part of a PhD studentship for Josephina Sampson.

More information (links open in a new tab):

Side effects of chemotherapy

Centrosomes in cell division and cancer


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