Professor Jim Norman

Finding a cancer bottleneck

Professor Jim Norman, based at our Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, is part of a large project which will improve our understanding of how cancers grow. The researchers are looking at how tumour cells interact with cells around them. They’re investigating how the interactions might kickstart the genes that cause tumours to grow and spread. Professor Norman is adding his expertise in how cancer cells spread through the body.

The team are investigating a protein called eIF4A, which activates certain cancer genes. There are two versions of this protein: eIF4A1 and eIF4A2. These proteins are important in activating genes in cancer cells, and neighbouring healthy cells in the tumour. But the two proteins have very different functions. eIF4A1 is associated with a poor outcome and it seems to lead to tumours growing quickly. eIF4A2 stops this fast growth, and is associated with a better outcome for patients.

The researchers think that eIF4A is an important ‘bottleneck’ for cell processes. They believe that many cancer-causing genes depend on this protein, and that targeting it may treat cancer in a new, specific and effective way.

Cancer biology

The Beatson Institute, Glasgow