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    Research home > Beat Cancer Project > A new treatment to kill cancerous cells

    A new treatment to kill cancerous cells

    Dr Loretta Dorstyn

    Characterisation of the role and mechanisms of caspase-2 in tumour suppression

    Our research

    Tumour suppressor proteins are important anti-cancer agents that act to eliminate or prevent the growth of harmful or cancerous cells. My study examines the role of one particular tumour suppressor protein, caspase-2, in preventing tumour growth and tumour development, and its role in a range of different cancers. Our work has demonstrated that caspase-2 acts to kill off cells that have not divided properly or cells that have  DNA damage and/or chromosomal defects that lead to a process known as genomic instability, commonly found in cancer. However, different cancers have different defects that make them respond differently to treatments.

    Our work has found that caspase-2 functions in only some blood cancers and in liver cancer. We aim to investigate how we can control the cancer-killing function of caspase-2 in order to develop treatments targeted to this protein. An understanding of how caspase-2 regulates genomic stability and prevents tumour growth will allow us to uncover additional molecules that could be targeted with treatment, to kill cancerous cells. This will ultimately lead to more effective treatment strategies for some cancers.

    What we aim to achieve

    My studies will hopefully give us more insight into biomarkers that predict the onset, progression and relapse of some cancers. I hope that findings from my research will benefit the initial diagnosis and prognosis of some cancers, which will allow better targeted therapy to more effectively fight off cancerous cells.

    Our next steps and milestones

    We have provided much knowledge and have made important discoveries about how some cancers can develop significantly faster than others, by a deletion in one gene. Our research is now identifying target proteins that have potential to eliminate such cancer cells and that can be used for therapeutic development for targeted therapy. With continued support from Cancer Council SA donors, we hope to expand our studies to analyse various different primary human tumour samples for errors in our gene of interest and to facilitate drug targeting for potential combination cancer therapies.

    What motivates me

    There is still so much we do not know about how some cancers develop and why some cancers do not respond effectively to current therapies. Our research is a step toward further understanding these issues and has potential to contribute to future therapeutic development. To know that such research will ultimately make a difference to the health of hundreds of people and to know that organisations like Cancer Council SA provide such strong support gives me the ultimate motivation to continue my current research.

    My message to supporters

    Development of therapies for cancer and applications of these therapies in the clinic, are heavily dependent on basic biology research to understand how and why cancer cells grow, and how they can be effectively targeted. To further our understanding of cancer biology we are reliant on financial support to allow future potential therapeutic outcomes possible. Funding through Cancer Council SA has provided us with an incredible opportunity to contribute to such knowledge and skills enhancing our fight against cancer. We acknowledge and thank all who have supported Cancer Council SA and our research.

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