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Dr. Eithne Costello 2008 Award

Research Institution: University of Liverpool - Division of Surgery & Oncology Dr. Eithne Costello

Award: £150,000   Duration: 2008-2011

Project Title: Crosstalk between pancreatic cancer cells and tumour infiltrating monocytes: role in invasion and potential for therapeutic exploitation

Research Aims:

Dr Costello is studying the role of two proteins, S100A8 and S100A9, found in inflammatory cells known as monocytes, in pancreatic tumours. These proteins are known to attract other inflammatory cells to sites of inflammation, but their role in cancer is not well understood.

Earlier work by Dr Costello showed that factors secreted by pancreatic cancer cells can increase the production of S100A8 and S100A9 proteins in inflammatory cells. Her current project funded by the PCRF will look at a possible role for these proteins in the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer, with the ultimate goal of using this to develop a treatment for the disease.

Another piece in the puzzle which Dr Costello is hoping to unravel is the role of a protein called Smad4, which can repress tumour development. Half of all pancreatic tumours no longer express SMAD4 and this increases their ability to grow and spread. Curiously, much lower levels of S100A8 are expressed by inflammatory cells in these tumours and Dr Costello is hoping to investigate the mechanism behind this.

Dr Costello is part of a large pancreatic cancer research team at the University of Liverpool.  She also studies colorectal cancer and has found a similar link between Smad4, S100A8 and S100A9 in this disease.

The team recently published initial findings in the journal Carcinogenesis: 'Smad4 loss is associated with fewer S100A8-positive monocytes in colorectal tumors and attenuated response to S100A8 in colorectal and pancreatic cancer cells'. Read the paper ...

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