Research identifies how cancer cells cheat death

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Research led by David Litchfield of The University of Western Ontario has identified how biochemical pathways can be "rewired" in cancer cells to allow these cells to ignore signals that should normally trigger their death. It's one way that cancer cells may become resistant to therapy. The findings are now published in Science Signaling.

"This work focused on understanding how cancer cells acquire a selective survival advantage, allowing them to avoid apoptosis, the process required for normal cell turnover and chemically-induced cell death" says Litchfield, Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Professor in the Department of Oncology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. "Our work also provides encouragement for the development of novel therapeutic approaches that would prevent - or neutralize - this 'rewiring' to make sure that cancer cells respond to treatment."

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Its multi-disciplinary approach included computational studies enabled by Greg Gloor, proteomics and systems biology approaches made possible by Shawn Li, both at Western, and a collaboration with Bernhard Luscher from the RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Two PhD students, James Duncan who is now in postdoctoral training at the University of North Carolina and Jacob Turowec are the lead authors on this investigation.