Switching off blood cancer cells
Healthy cells rely on messages from outside the cell which tell them to grow. These messages trigger a cascade of ‘keep growing’ instructions within the cell, which are mainly controlled by proteins called kinases. Another group of proteins called phosphatases counter the function of kinases and tell the cell to stop growing. When the delicate balance between these different proteins is upset to favour the actions of kinases, the healthy cell can turn cancerous.
Kinases have been well studied, and there are now really good drugs which block these proteins’ activity, which are used to treat some blood cancers. But phosphatases have been relatively under researched.
Professor Graham Packham and his team at the University of Southampton are looking at how a phosphatase protein called SHIP1 works. They will see if there are drugs which can help SHIP1 to switch off the ‘keep growing’ signals in the cell. This may open up new ways of treating blood cancers.