Understanding the molecular mistakes in bowel cancer
Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute
About Owen Sansom
Professor Owen Sansom is Deputy Director at our Beatson Institute for Cancer Research. He and his team are investigating the molecular changes that happen in bowel cells that ultimately lead to bowel cancer. Finding out more about how it develops will help scientists to find new ways to prevent and treat the disease.
Every cell in our bodies is constantly communicating, sending and receiving signals within the cell itself, and between nearby cells. These signals control how often cells should multiply, and are normally tightly controlled to protect us from cancer.
Professor Sansom's research is focused on a particular cell signalling pathway involving a protein called Wnt (pronounced 'wint'). This pathway is overactive in cancer cells. They receive too many signals telling them to multiply, so they grow out of control to form a tumour.
Professor Sansom has discovered that faults in a gene called Apc, which are often found in bowel cancer, can cause overactive Wnt signalling. He is now trying to unpick the complex relationship between Apc and Wnt signalling, to identify the specific genes and molecules that are involved.
In 2007, Professor Sansom won the BACR AstraZeneca Young Scientist Frank Rose award, in recognition of his achievements in cancer science. And in 2008, he and his colleagues showed that rogue stem cells can fuel the growth of bowel cancer.
Through his work, Professor Sansom hopes to track down the tell-tale molecular hallmarks of bowel cancer, which could be important targets for future cancer treatments.