Funded by the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund
Cancer rates are falling in North America, with a few important exceptions. Liver and endometrial cancers in African Americans and Hispanics continue to rise. We try to decrease that disparity by identifying new characteristics of those cancers. Those characteristics allow doctors to determine if a patient will respond to new therapies. The characteristics also provide an incentive for drug companies to pursue new therapies, since the clinical trials are more likely to succeed.
But how do we find these characteristics? Why have they not already been discovered? The answer is that our lab made a new discovery about how these cancers grow. We found that a protein controls organ growth by placing a “molecular barcode” on the DNA. Under healthy conditions, this barcode is only present when an organ is supposed to grow. But in cancer the barcode is always present, commanding it to grow into a tumor.
The work we will do here tests if we can examine mouse liver tumors for these barcodes. The barcodes will allow us to develop new therapies for liver cancer patients. Those new therapies should stop tumor growth. The barcodes also provide a way for doctors to know which drugs will work for a particular patient. By personalizing medicine, we hope to make new and better therapies that are not worse than the disease.