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Future Leader: Rachael Smith


Project titleTargeting protein synthesis in pancreatic cancer

Supervisor: Professor Owen Sansom

Searching for new treatments

Pancreatic cancer is often thought of as one of the most aggressive cancers. Currently it is the 4th highest cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the UK, with only 7% of people surviving 5 years after diagnosis. These woeful survival rates have not improved in the past 50 years, and while other cancers have seen massive advances in screening and development of effective treatments, advances in pancreatic cancer are still greatly needed.

Targeting protein synthesis in pancreatic cancer

In all normal cells of the human body the production of protein is tightly controlled to allow the correct level of protein to be produced. However, in cancer cells, this protein production is commonly increased due to hyperactive growth signals that these cells receive. Cancer cells, including pancreatic cancer cells, grow and divide much faster than normal healthy cells, and can manipulate this protein production to produce increased levels of specific ‘cancer-promoting’ proteins. These proteins can include those which will help the cancer cells survive, invade and move throughout the body. 

Professor Sansom and other scientists have been studying the machinery that cancer cells use to produce these proteins and have shown that its control is important during the early stages of cancer formation. The way the cancer cells control their protein production can influence the behaviour of the cell and therefore how aggressive and invasive the cancer is. By understanding more about this process, we hope to target the protein synthesis machinery and thus halt cancer.

Stopping pancreatic cancer from invading and growing

Working with Academy Director Professor Owen Sansom, Future Leader Rachael will be investigating how targeting the production of these specific ‘cancer-promoting’ proteins within pancreatic cancer cells may affect disrupt tumour growth, invasion and survival.

Rachael's project is supported with our funding partners, the Chief Scientist Office and Pancreatic Cancer Scotland.

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