Going Off Message: The Role of Misinformation in Cancer
Cancer continues to be a major health problem in Canada, causing the deaths of about 80,000 Canadians each year. As Canada Research Chair in Molecular Biology of the Cell Nucleus, Dr. Katherine Borden is looking to discover how cancer cells grow and spread through the body and why many of them are resistant to cancer medicines.
Borden and her research team will focus on a key piece of the information transfer system in cells known as messenger RNA. Messenger RNA serves as the intermediary between genes and their active form, proteins. She and her team have already discovered that errors in the position of the RNA within a cell alter the message from the DNA, leading to unintended changes to the cell and its surrounding environment.
By altering cellular architecture, these changes in RNA location make it easier for cells to crawl along tissues or break through blood vessels: basic features needed for cancer cells to spread. Borden and her team have already identified a particular protein (known as eIF4E) as a key factor in this process and have developed a way to target it in patients.
They have also translated these results into early-stage clinical trials focusing on an aggressive form of blood cancer known as acute myeloid leukemia (AML). They are testing ways to overcome drug resistance in AML, and examining the benefits of changing a tumour cell’s environment to make it a less attractive place for tumour cells to grow.
Ultimately, Borden’s findings could have implications not only for AML, but in head, neck and breast cancers as well.