A biochemist at Clemson University has gotten more that 787 thousand dollars to study the interaction of cells, DNA and cancer.
At a time when major research grants are hard to come by, the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health awarded Weiguo Cao three-year funding to investigate DNA repair. Our genes continually assaulted by “troublemakers” inside cells and from the environment and Cao explains that learning how cells repair DNA can teach us about how to fight cancer:
Once we understand it, understand how it works, that’s going to help us to understand what’s going to cause cancer and how we can prevent it. Maybe we can find a better way to prevention, intervention or therapy.
As Cao explains, impaired DNA can lead to mutations, which may accumulate and lead to cancer and other illnesses. Some of the drugs used in cancer treatments work by intentionally damaging DNA. Their success can be influenced by DNA repair activities. A clearer understanding of DNA repair may offer to improve cancer therapy.
“The link between DNA repair and cancer is well known in some instances,” Cao says, “For example, some people are susceptible to skin cancer due to defect in DNA repair.” He adds:
My lab studies a repair process for another cause of DNA mistakes: deamination. Deamination damages DNA, causing part of the genetic code to be copied wrong that results in mismatched pairings of biochemicals that contain the instructions for proper cell function. We want to know how DNA repair enzymes find the damage and remove it. The research can help understand how defects in repair of deaminated DNA cause cancer.