Cancer specialist given £2.5m to continue research

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A LEADING cancer specialist at Dundee University has been awarded £2.5 million funding to continue her pioneering research into links between mutations in cancer genes and the formation of tumours.

Dr Victoria Cowling has been awarded a prestigious Medical Research Council Senior Non-Clinical Fellowship to continue her groundbreaking research for the next seven years.

Dr Cowling, who is based in the university’s Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit, has already made a major molecular discovery about how genes are regulated and how mutations in cancer genes promote unrestrained cell growth which can result in tumour formation.

A university spokesman explained: “Dr Cowling’s research has revealed a completely unexpected and critical role of a chemical structure within cells called the `mRNA methyl cap’. She has shown that the mRNA methyl cap operates as a master integrator of cellular signals which drives protein production in the cell.

“This research has revealed a new fundamental biological process relevant to understanding how all cells regulate cell growth. Research in this area has taken on added urgency as her results suggest that mutations in several genes that cause cancer may exert their influence through methyl cap formation and function. Dr Cowling now plans to build upon her initial discoveries to investigate how mutations in genes that drive cancers impact on the machinery that controls the methyl cap.”

Dr Cowling said: “A major goal is to exploit this knowledge to develop new approaches and technology to devise future anti-cancer drugs. The aim of our research is to counteract cancer-causing genes by targeting the machinery controlling the mRNA methyl cap.”