Towards improved cancer diagnostics through novel protein-state specific methods

Status: In-progress
Year: 2022
Funded: $109,998
Grant Type: Major Project Grant

Cancer diagnosis and prognosis strongly relies on biopsies, where small amounts of tissues are analysed for the presence of tumour marker proteins. One of the frequently analysed proteins is p16, which in its healthy state helps to suppress cell division. We recently discovered that this protein can undergo a major structural change into amyloid. Amyloid fibrils are protein aggregates that are frequently found in neurodegenerative diseases but have so far not been reported in cancer. We found that p16 has altered functions when in the amyloid state and cannot suppress cell division anymore. 

So far, diagnostic methods only measure the absence or presence of biomarkers but are not able to distinguish active from non-functioning proteins. To know if a crucial cancer-related protein is active or not would significantly improve current diagnostic and prognostic procedures by adding another dimension to the currently available methods.

In this project, we aim to exploit knowledge about the novel p16 protein amyloid state for the future development of improved diagnostic methods. We will screen a number of established cancer cell lines and patient tumours for the novel p16 state which will allow us, for the first time, to understand the prevalence of amyloids in cancer.

Researcher // Dr Christoph Goebl – University of Otago

Dr Goebl and his team are interested in the molecular details of oxidation events. They study structures and interactions of human proteins and aim to understand the underlying mechanisms upon oxidation.

More About Dr Christoph Goebl

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