Hawkins - Cell death regulation in cancer and viral infection
Dr Christine Hawkins
Associate Professor, College of Science, Health and Engineering
Apoptosis is an evolutionarily conserved, tightly regulated process that destroys surplus and dangerous cells. Excessive apoptosis has been linked with degenerative diseases, while inappropriate cellular survival can promote cancer, infection and autoimmune disease. Apoptotic pathways defects can also limit the efficacy of anti-cancer therapies. Chemotherapy kills tumour cells by damaging DNA, which triggers apoptosis, so blocks in apoptotic pathways can render tumour cells unresponsive to anti-cancer treatments.
Drugs that directly engage apoptotic pathways may bypass these blocks, killing chemotherapy-resistant tumour cells. In addition, because direct apoptosis-inducing drugs do not need to damage DNA to kill cancer cells, they may pose a lower risk than chemotherapy of provoking the development of subsequent therapy-related malignancies in cancer survivors. Our goal is to understand apoptotic regulation, in normal cells, cancerous cells and virally-infected cells, and to exploit this knowledge to explore better and safer therapies for cancer and viral diseases.