Non-Communicable Diseases

Cancer

Two Groups in Trieste and one in Cape Town investigate the genetic and molecular mechanisms of cancer development. In Cape Town, the Cancer Genomics Group (Zerbini) develops novel therapeutics targeting various cellular proteins that are deregulated in cancer. The Protein Networks Group in Trieste (Myers) uses high throughput mass spectrometry to perform proteomics studies to understand how protein complexes regulate normal and cancer cell behaviour, with particular interest in the process of protein modification by ubiquitination. The Molecular Hematology Group in Trieste (Efremov) is interested in deciphering the intracellular signalling pathways that control proliferation, differentiation and survival of normal and malignant B-lymphocytes. A particular focus is the study, in both patients’ cells and animal models, of the mechanisms leading to the development of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). 

Highlights 

The Cancer Group in Cape Town is making great strides in identifying prostate cancer biomarkers in specific African populations. In a recent study they identified a panel of novel serological biomarkers which may have valuable diagnostic applications (Adeola et al., 2017, Oncotarget, 8, 37991). 

Infection with Human Papillomaviruses is a major cause of cancer, and work from the Tumour Virology Group in Trieste identified a novel mechanism by which the virus gains cell entry, which has important implications for understanding how virus infection takes place (McNally et al., 2017, Nat. Cell. Biol.19, 1214). Also from the same group, there were several studies addressing phospho-regulation of the viral E7 oncoprotein, which extended our understanding of the molecular basis for the development of cancer (Szalmas et al., 2017, J. Virol., 91, e00057-17; Zine el Abidine et al., 2017, Virology, 500, 218), the results of which offer novel approaches for therapeutic intervention.