Certain cancer treatments, like some chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy, work by inflicting lethal damage to the tumour cells’ DNA. But the cells can shrug off these treatments using inbuilt DNA repair kits, making the disease more challenging to treat. At the University of Oxford, Dr Opher Gileadi wants to find out more about these toolkits and develop ways to interfere with them.
Working alongside Professors Peter McHugh and Peter Schofield, Dr Gileadi is focussing on a group of repair molecules called MBL nucleases. Using a variety of techniques in the lab, the team wants to explore their precise roles and detail their structure. In doing so, the researchers hope to identify sweet spots that they could target to block their action, and develop molecules which can do precisely that.
If certain MBL nucleases are found to be crucial for cancer cell survival, then blocking them could represent a new treatment strategy. On top of that, targeting them would hopefully make cancer cells more sensitive to existing DNA-damaging treatments, potentially boosting their effectiveness.