How a Cholesterol Drug Might Stop Cancer Dead
Normal cells are well behaved, like trained puppies that like their daily routine. But tumour cells are like rabid wolves: they grow uncontrolled and don’t respond to normal cues. Cells go “rogue” because of mutations that enable a single cell to evolve, multiply and cause cancer.
Dr. Linda Penn, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Oncology, is working to target tumour cells at two levels. First, she is trying to better understand a particularly potent and prevalent cancer-causing mutation that results in an over-abundance of a molecule called Myc. If Penn’s group can understand how Myc drives cancer growth, they will be in a strong position to exploit the unusually high levels of Myc found only in tumour cells. They can use this abnormality as a weapon to destroy the tumour cell.
To this end, Penn and her team have developed many new technologies. Second, Penn is trying to understand how the statin family of drugs stops cancerous growth. Currently used as cholesterol-control agents, statins can trigger tumour cell death without harming neighbouring normal cells. If Penn’s lab can understand how this works, it can determine how this readily available drug could be used as an anti-cancer agent in patient care.