How do cancer cells grow and spread?
Professor Chris Marshall is the Director of the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cell and Molecular Biology, which is at the forefront of UK research into the molecular causes of cancer. Professor Marshall leads the Oncogene Team, which is studying the communication pathways within cancer cells that determine how they behave. Central to his research are two groups of related proteins called 'Ras' and 'Rho'.
Researchers have found that the Ras gene is faulty in many different types of cancer. Professor Marshall's team is investigating the pathways controlled by Ras proteins to find out exactly how Ras promotes tumour growth. This work has already highlighted several other proteins that may be used as targets for new cancer drugs in the future.
Investigating how cells move
Professor Marshall is also interested in Rho proteins, which control cell movement. Cancer cells that move away from the original tumour mass can spread to other sites within the body, a process known as metastasis. Research into how cells move is therefore essential if we are to learn more about metastasis and develop drugs that can prevent cancer spread.
Professor Marshall is keen to understand how the many different types of Rho proteins work together to coordinate cell movement. His work has already revealed that cancer cells can move in different ways, which has important implications for how scientists develop and use drugs to stop cancer cells moving.
The team are also working on a project looking at Rho proteins in endothelial cells. Endothelial cells also need to move in order to form new blood vessels and this process of angiogenesis is required for tumour growth. This work will hopefully highlight new ways to develop cancer drugs that block this essential process.
Lifetime Achievement award
In July 2011 Professor Marshall was awarded the prestigious Cancer Research UK Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research Prize, in recognition of his important contributions and achievements in cancer research.
Other research projects by Chris Marshall
Funding period: 01 October 2010 to 30 September 2013
LOXL2-Mediated Matrix Remodeling in Metastasis and Mammary Gland Involution
Cancer Res.2011;71 :1561-1572
The Role of Lysyl Oxidase in SRC-Dependent Proliferation and Metastasis of Colorectal Cancer
J Natl Cancer Inst.2011;103 :407-424