Research Project 2

The selective action of RAR ligands

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The cells that sustain a cancer and that are largely responsible for metastatic and aggressive disease are termed cancer stem cells. They are not eliminated by conventional treatments because chemotherapeutics and radiotherapy target dividing cells and cancer stem cells are quiescent. Cancer stem cells, therefore, provide a source of cells that replenish a cancer post-treatment leading to disease relapse. The many endeavours to find a means to eliminate cancer stem cells might provide a bona fide cure for some cancers. Activity of the retinoic acid receptor γ (for the active metabolite of vitamin A) is important to cancer stem cell survival and proliferation. We have developed a synthetic compound that switches off the activity of this receptor. It kills cancer stem cells without affecting normal cells. The project aims to understand why this is the case because this is important to developing the compound for use in patients.