Finding new drug targets

Lead researcher - Dr Melania Capasso, Queen Mary University of London
Characterising HVCN1 in B-cell malignancies, a potential novel therapeutic target
Amount awarded: £40,000
Award start date: 19 Apr 2012
Award duration: 6 years

B cell malignancies are common blood cancers; the malignant counterpart of various types of white blood cells called B cells. They are diagnosed in about 17,000 people in the UK every year and despite great research efforts, our knowledge of how these cancers grow is still rather limited, hampering the development of new therapies.

Recently, I discovered the function of a newly identified protein in B cells. Its name is HVCN1 and it is a type of protein called a proton channel, which normally resides on the surface of B cells. HVCN1 is also present in a number of B cell malignancies, such as Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) and Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL). I have evidence that HVCN1 helps these tumours in different ways, protecting cancer cells from dying or facilitating their growth. It is important to fully characterise HVCN1 function in these tumours, if we clarify how it helps these cancers to grow we can target it with new treatments that will provide new tools to beat cancer.