Cancer occurs when cells grow in an uncontrolled manner. These cells spread to other tissues and form metastatic tumors. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells can survive within a tumor environment that has low amounts of nutrients and does not have a normal oxygen supply. This is because cancer cells contain a different set of factors called “proteins,” which are the principal machinery for work in a cell. These changes in protein are what drive increased cell growth. Proteins are made through a process called “translation,” where the cellular genetic material is converted from RNA into protein. We seek to block the translation of cancer-promoting proteins, and to determine if this will stop the formation of tumors.
To address this goal, our research is focused on understanding how translation is regulated in cancer cells. Here, we are studying a regulator of translation called eIF3. eIF3 is increased in cancers, including those of the breast, lung, stomach, cervix, and prostate. Furthermore, eIF3 overexpression is linked to poor prognosis. In this proposal, we will determine how eIF3 contributes to translation of cancer-promoting proteins and evaluate the potential of eIF3 as a therapeutic target. Ultimately, the long-term goal of this research is to define how protein production is regulated in cancer cells, to allow for rational design of cancer treatment therapeutics that target translation.