Stopping cancer patients getting heart disease
Scotland Grant – Prof Robin Plevin, University of Strathclyde
Summary: This PhD studentship will investigate why patients who have chemotherapy drugs or X-ray treatment for cancer have a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease. In the future, this could lead to new treatments to stop cancer patients getting heart disease.
Great advances have been made in the treatment of cancer. However, cancer patients who have chemotherapy drugs or X-ray treatment to kill the cancer cells are more prone to getting coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is usually due to damage and death to cells lining the blood vessels, called endothelial cells. This sets off a chain reaction which over time can lead to a heart attack.
Professor Plevin and his team have found in the lab that if you treat endothelial cells with cancer drugs or blast them with X-rays you get a very strong activation of a protein called JNK. This project will test whether JNK drives the death of endothelial cells. However, there is not one but two JNKs. They will use a special method to rid the endothelial cells of one JNK at a time or both. Then they will treat cells with cancer drugs or X-rays to see if the cells still die to see which one of the two JNKs is responsible.
Also, when X-rays are fired at cells, those in the surrounding area may die or get altered in a bad way. This is called the ‘bystander effect’ and this project will study the role of JNKs in cell death beyond those directly irradiated by X-rays.
We urgently need new treatments to counteract the higher risk of heart disease in people who have had treatment for cancer. If successful, this project will help us to understand the mechanisms involved which will help pave the way for the development of new drugs to block the right JNK to stop CHD developing in cancer patients.