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Investigating role of 4-stranded DNA in breast cancer

Start Year: 2017
Finish Year: 2018
Chief Investigator: Dr Nicole Smith
Grant Type: Innovator Grant
Institution: University of Western Australia

Most people have heard of the double helix – a 2-stranded DNA sequence which is the master code for our bodies to function properly. Recently scientists discovered that humans also have some 4-stranded DNA sequences, called G4-DNA. G4-DNA is most often found in our genes – part of our DNA which directs how cells function. Scientists believe G4-DNA formation can control whether a gene is turned on or off, hence acting like a “switch”. Cancers occur and grow when certain “switches” in our genes are abnormally turned on or off allowing the cell to grow and spread in an abnormal way and thus become a cancer.

Dr Nicole Smith
Dr Nicole Smith

Dr Nicole Smith has found that the G4-DNA in breast cancer has been altered and she has been funded by NBCF to further investigate the mechanism for that alteration and determine if it can be ‘undone’, stopping growth and destroying breast cancer cells.

This new understanding in breast cancer – seeking to turn on and off the DNA that controls the genes involved in cancer development – could be a more direct approach to stopping cancer than targeting specific proteins or enzymes on the cancer itself because the genes are ultimately easier to precisely target with therapies.