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New tool to probe cancer’s molecular make-up

26 Aug 2014

Scientists have shown how to better identify and measure vital molecules that control cell behaviour – paving the way for improved tools for diagnosis, prediction and monitoring of cancer.

Researchers from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute based at The University of Manchester – part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre – and the Institute of Cancer Research, London, looked at protein kinases, molecules that control various aspects of cellular function.


The study, funded by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)/Pfizer CASE studentship and CRUK, was published in Nature Methods this week (24 August).
 
Earlier work has shown that mutations or increases in a range of protein kinases are linked to tumour growth, and for several decades researchers have looked to develop drugs that target and prevent this activity in order to kill cancer cells. Ten types of drugs which reduce the activity have so far been approved for cancer treatment in patients.
 
Dr Claus Jørgensen, who led the study as team leader in the Division of Cancer Biology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, before taking up a new post as head of the Systems Oncology group at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said: “Protein kinases regulate how cells communicate. When these molecules are deregulated it corresponds to cells “hearing voices” with a resulting change in their behaviour. Doctors need a way to spot changes in kinase levels in individual tumours so they can see how they respond to treatments and match patients to the treatment that works best for them.”
 
The team investigated the make-up of over 200 protein kinases. They used a technique known as mass spectrometry to develop a method that can both identify and measure the amount of various kinases in a biological sample – for example from a part of a tumour removed in surgery.
 
“Our new method can correctly measure the amount of protein kinases in a sample. It means we can monitor cancer cell behaviour and also how tumours respond to different therapy in cancer patients,” added Dr Jørgensen.

Notes for editors

Paper entitled “Systematic evaluation of quantotypic peptides for targeted analysis of the human kinome”, Worboys et al.was published in Nature Methods on Sunday 24 August.

For further information, please contact Alison Barbuti, Media Relations Officer, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, The University of Manchester, 0161 275 8383 or email alison.barbuti@manchester.ac.uk. 

The Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) is a partnership founded by The University of Manchester, including the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Cancer Research UK. The MCRC brings together the expertise, ambition and resources of its partner organisations in the fields of cancer treatment and clinical research and provides outstanding facilities where researchers and clinicians can work closely together. The aim of the MCRC is to improve understanding of how cancer develops, in order to translate basic and clinical research into new diagnostic tests and treatments that benefit cancer patients.
  
The Institute of Cancer Research, London, is one of the world’s most influential cancer research institutes.
Scientists and clinicians at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are working every day to make a real impact on cancer patients’ lives. Through its unique partnership with The Royal Marsden Hospital and ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach, the ICR is able to create and deliver results in a way that other institutions cannot. Together the two organisations are rated in the top four cancer centres globally.
The ICR has an outstanding record of achievement dating back more than 100 years. It provided the first convincing evidence that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer, laying the foundation for the now universally accepted idea that cancer is a genetic disease. Today it leads the world at isolating cancer-related genes and discovering new targeted drugs for personalised cancer treatment. 
As a college of the University of London, the ICR provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction. It has charitable status and relies on support from partner organisations, charities and the general public.
The ICR’s mission is to make the discoveries that defeat cancer.