While extensive research has been done on the genetics and biochemical mechanisms involved in the development of tumours (tumorigenesis), less is known about how mechanical and electrical signalling regulate cancer. Ion channels govern cell behaviours by perceiving physicochemical cues (such as mechanical force, temperature and pH) to control ion flux across membranes. As Canada Research Chair in Cancer Biophysics, Dr. Xi Huang is working to better understand the role of ion channels in tumorigenesis.
He and his research team are testing the efficacy of an ion channel-targeting designer peptide that they invented to treat recurrent brain cancer, or glioblastoma. They are also uncovering how ion channels regulate signalling between glioblastoma cells and neurons to reveal disease progression. Huang and his team are also identifying the physical properties of brain tumours and how ion channels govern mechanical signals to regulate their growth, chemosensitivity and metastasis. Ultimately, their findings will advance brain tumour treatment.