The work in our lab is focused on finding weaknesses in cancer cells, and figuring out whether we can target these weaknesses with therapy.
All cells in our bodies produce proteins, and these proteins carry out almost all the functions in the body. When you breath air into your lungs, the oxygen is carried around your body by a protein called hemoglobin. Once the oxygen is delivered to cells that need it, it is used by other proteins to generate energy from the food we eat, which have been digested by other proteins produced in our stomachs, and that energy is used by other proteins to carry out all the processes needed to keep us alive and healthy. Proteins are the work horses of our bodies, making sure everything works as it should.
All living things contain proteins, and when you eat, you are consuming the proteins that made up your food. Our body breaks down those proteins into its building blocks, and then uses these building blocks to produce all of its own proteins. If a cell needs to grow, it produces proteins that help it grow. If it needs to fight off an infection, our immune system produces proteins that allow them do that. A cancer cell need proteins that allow it to grow uncontrollably and spread, so it produces them itself.
This process of making proteins is what our lab is focused on. If we can figure out how the cancer cell corrupts the normal process of producing proteins in order to make those that help it grow, we can begin to think about whether we can reverse this process.
For a primer on how cells produce proteins, see the video below from CSIR Life Sciences.