Understanding cancerous mutations

  • November 4, 2013
Understanding cancerous mutations

Dr Anand Jeyasekharan's research uncovers the mechanism underlying the development of cancer in people with mutations in a ‘caretaker’ protein.

New research has uncovered the mechanism underlying the development of cancer in people with mutations in a ‘caretaker’ protein.

Gates Cambridge Alumnus Dr Anand Jeyasekharan’s research is published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

Dr Jeyasekharan’s research is linked to studies he did during his post-doctoral fellowship in Professor Ashok Venkitaraman’s laboratory at the Medical Research Council Cancer Unit at the University of Cambridge.

The tumour suppressor protein BRCA2 protects cells from becoming malignant by promoting an error-free form of DNA repair in the nucleus. Mutations in BRCA2 lead to the accumulation of DNA damage over decades, and thus to the development of cancer. Dr Jeyasekharan’s paper reveals the mechanism underlying the mislocalisation of BRCA2 that contains cancer-associated point mutations. The research provides insight into the cellular machinery involved in repair and maintenance of our genetic information, a process that is impaired in most epithelial cancers.  

Dr Jeyasekharan [2004], who did a PhD in Oncology, is currently a Fellow in Medical Oncology at the National University Hospital, Singapore and a Principal Associate at the Cancer Science Institute. He said: “Mutations in the BRCA2 tumour suppressor result in defective DNA repair, but the mechanism by which this occurs is poorly understood. This paper describes the existence of hidden nuclear export signals within BRCA2 and its cargo protein RAD51, which are normally masked. We show that a subset of cancer-causing mutations cause an ‘unmasking’ of this signal, resulting in the export of the BRCA2 and RAD51 proteins into the cytoplasm, and thereby decreasing their availability for error-free DNA repair.”

His current work at the Cancer Science Institute aims to build on this discovery, testing for unique defects in protein localisation within tumour samples to refine the selection of patients for therapy targeting DNA repair in cancer.

Picture credit: dream designs and www.freedigitalphotos.net.

Latest News

Affecting change for the Māori community

Self-determination lies at the centre of Māori culture. “It’s a way of life,” says Chris Tooley. That idea is also at the heart of his PhD studies at Cambridge and his subsequent work in Parliament and in the community. Chris grew up with a strong sense of being part of the Māori community. He has ancestral […]

On the COVID frontline

Three Gates Cambridge scholars who have been on the medical frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic will be speaking about their experiences at a virtual event next weekend. The event, organised by the Gates Cambridge Alumni Association, will be moderated by Elizabeth Dzeng, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco in the […]

New game tackles Covid conspiracies

A new online game that puts players in the shoes of a purveyor of fake pandemic news is the latest tactic in the UK Government’s efforts to tackle the deluge of coronavirus misinformation that is misleading many and costing lives across the world. Launched to the public today, the Go Viral! game has been developed by the […]

“Democracy does not work on a ‘trust me’ basis”

When Jennifer Gibson started her MPhil at Cambridge in 2001 as part of the inaugural class of Gates Scholars, no-one knew what it meant to be a Gates Cambridge Scholar. Twenty years later, Jennifer is now a human rights lawyer focused on national security issues, something she never could have anticipated, but which she credits in no small part […]