Scrambled Chromosomes: Unmasking the Secret Power of Cancer Cells
Cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases in Canada today—and about half of people who are diagnosed will succumb to the disease within 10 years.
At its core, cancer is a problem of uncontrolled cell multiplication. Since genes that promote unregulated cell proliferation are carried on chromosomes, losing or gaining extra copies of some chromosomes is one of the most frequent means by which cancer cells acquire the ability to grow without restraint.
Dr. Damien D’Amours, Canada Research Chair in Chromatin Dynamics and Genome Architecture, studies how normal cells divide up their chromosomes during cell proliferation, and how misregulation of this process generates cancer cells. He and his research team are using yeast as a simple model organism to study the regulation of chromosome behavior during cell division. Yeast is particularly useful for this because in yeast, it is possible to remove the genes involved in chromosome separation in ways that are not possible in other organisms. Using this approach, D’Amours’ research team has identified key mechanisms responsible for changes in chromosome structure during cell growth.
D'Amours and his team aim to reveal how the normal architecture of chromosomes promotes their effective separation in dividing cells, and how corruption of this process leads to abnormal chromosome numbers in tumour cells. Their research will also identify the key mechanisms cells use to recognize and repair chromosome damage in health and disease.
Ultimately, this research may lead to the discovery of drugs that can help to fend off cancer.