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ESF EURYI award winner aims to stop cancer cells reading their own DNA

A promising new line in anti-cancer therapy by blocking the molecular motors involved in copying genetic information during cell division is being pursued by young Dutch researcher Dr. Nynke Dekker in one of this years EURYI award winning projects sponsored by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the European Heads of Research Councils (EuroHORCS). Dekker and her team are trying to stop tumor development by interfering with the molecular motors that copy DNA during cell division. This will cut off the genetic information flow that tumours need to grow, and could complement existing cancer therapies, while in the longer term bringing the promise of improved outcomes with greatly reduced side effects.

There are three primary ways of treating cancer at present, and these have fundamentally changed little in 30 years. In the case of solid tumours, surgery can be used to cut out the cancerous tissue, while radiation therapy can kill the malignant cells, and chemotherapy stops them dividing. Dekkers work is aiming towards a new generation of drugs that target cancer cells much more specifically than traditional chemotherapy, avoiding side effects such as temporary hair loss.

Dekker is focusing on an enzyme called Topoisomerase IB that plays a key role in some of the molecular motors involved in the processes of DNA and RNA copying during cell division. These are responsible for reading the genetic code and making sure it is encoded correctly in the daughter cell. In healthy cells it is important that this process works normally, but in cancer cells it is a natural target for disruptive therapy. Specifically targeting these molecular motors in cancer cells would then prevent the cancer cells from growing into a larger tumor, said Dekker. This molecular copying machinery, constructed mostly out of proteins, in effect walks along the DNA double helix reading the genetic code so that it can be copied accurately into new DNA during division. Other compo
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Contact: Thomas Lau
tlau@esf.org
33-388-762-158
European Science Foundation
9-Aug-2007


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