Scientist to find how cancer ‘steals keys’ to healthy growth

London: A cure for cancer may be on the anvil as a British scientist has proposed to carry out pioneering research that may discover how cancer “steals the keys” from the body’s locksmiths.

For the research, Mathew Coleman, a senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham, will receive 1.4 million pounds over six years from Cancer Research UK.

His study, to be conducted on both human tissue and cells donated by cancer patients, will focus on three specific proteins, which are all enzymes that act as “locksmiths” and play a range of roles, including controlling energy production, cell growth and cell function.

When these proteins become faulty, it can affect their functioning, spiralling them both as well as the cells out of control.

Usually, these enzymes — called oxygenases — work by attaching an oxygen molecule to specific parts of other proteins, which generally turns them on.

Once turned on, it unlocks processes in a cell that ensure it develops normally and that everything is properly controlled.

“We have found that these enzyme locksmiths become faulty in cancer, meaning they’re unable to attach oxygen molecules to other proteins properly,” Coleman said, in a statement on Monday.

“This means the door remains shut, and certain processes are locked out. We think that this can lead to abnormal cell growth and function, which can lead to cancer,” Coleman noted.

Importantly, this locked out feature has the potential to have a domino effect which can disrupt cell growth and function, causing cells to go awry and turn cancerous.

Understanding the workings of these oxygenases may lead to new targeted treatments for cancer patients, the researchers said.

“If we can find out more about how oxygenases become faulty and the consequences of this in cancer cells, we may be able to identify and develop new drugs that target the cellular processes they control,” Coleman said.

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