Emerging researcher first grant (2017 funding round)

Dr Petr Tomek
University of Auckland
IMPACT-ful resistance mechanism of cancer cells
36 months

Lay summary

The human immune cells can seek out and destroy cancer cells, yet, we are dying of cancer. This is because cancers evolved cunning ways to inactivate the immune system. Essentially all cancer types recruit an enzyme called IDO1 to deplete the essential amino acid tryptophan. The immune cells cannot function properly at low tryptophan levels and become inactivated and die. How do the cancer cells survive depletion of tryptophan when the immune cells are dying? We have recently found that a protein called IMPACT protects brain cancer cells during Trp deprivation. In this research, we investigate if IMPACT is a general resistance mechanism of cancer cells against stresses such as chemotherapy. Understanding the role of IMPACT in cancer has enormous potential to identify novel ways of treating cancer and improving outcomes of cancer patients in New Zealand and worldwide.

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