Project title: Investigation of miRNAs in human pancreatic cancer: functional role and potential therapeutic and diagnostic applications
Project aims: Every cell in our bodies contain thousands of proteins whose job is to control what the cell does and how it behaves. So the way cancer cells behave – in multiplying very fast, in spreading to other parts of the body – can be linked to imbalances in the proteins within these cells. Professor Martin Clynes’ research aims to try and control cancer by controlling these proteins.
Within our cells, the manufacture of proteins can be regulated by molecules called microRNAs. Professor Clynes has tested cancer tissue and normal tissue from pancreatic cancer patients and has found that certain microRNAs are found at higher levels in tumour tissue. Based on this research he has identified a panel of these molecules which he believes may be linked to the disease.
In this research project, he will genetically engineer pancreatic cancer cells to lower the levels of these specific microRNAs one at a time and then see whether this makes the cancer cells behave in a more normal way. The hope is that this could lead to new ways of controlling the disease, preventing the cancer from growing and spreading to other parts of the body.
He plans to look at this within the tumour cells themselves, the cells of the stroma – the tissue that surrounds pancreatic cancer tumours – and in a mix of both types of cells. This is because we know that the interaction between the tumour and the surrounding stroma is a key factor in how pancreatic cancer can grow and spread.
Professor Clynes also plans to see if these microRNAs are found at sufficient levels in pancreatic cancer patients’ blood to create a test to monitor the progress of treatment.