Using the von Hippel-Lindau tumour suppressor protein to stabilise microtubules
All cells depend on large structures called microtubules to mediate cell division, cell architecture, and the growth and maintenance of special organelles such as flagella and cilia. A molecule called the von Hippel-Lindau tumour suppressor protein (pVHL) interacts with microtubules and stabilises them. We wish to establish how pVHL does this so we can harness this molecule to influence microtubule function and potentially control aberrant cell division (which occurs in cancer).
What we aim to achieve
Is it possible to control aberrant cell division in cancer? Our work flirts with this idea. Most anticancer drugs inhibit cell division by acting on microtubules leading to cell death. But there is no specificity and control. What if we could control cell division and cell death and control the type of cells that need to die and those that need to divide. This work will potentially see the development of a new class of anti-cancer drugs with much more specificity and control.
Our next steps and milestones
Cancer Council SA's funding has been critical for the development of a model system to investigate the interaction between microtubules and pVHL. The model system will identify important binding sites on the pVHL-microtubule interface. Structure of this interface becomes a real possibility with the use of cryoelectron microscopy, and having both will be critical in the development of a new class of anti-cancer drugs with specificity and control.
What motivates me
Motivation for me comes from the science of how cancer develops, and the challenge is the discovery of new and novel pathways to stop this from happening.
My message to supporters
In order to develop this new class of anticancer drugs, one must understand firstly the basics of microtubule function, how pVHL and microtubules interact and how this may control cell division in cancer. This funding has provided us with an excellent model to investigate these aspects of the project, and has enabled us to rapidly advance in this field. That is why we are very grateful to the generous supporters of Cancer Council SA, who have provided this funding.