Professor John Spencer’s Lab to carry out vital skin cancer research thanks to new grant

Sussex molecule bound to PHIP(2)

The Spencer Lab, in the University’s Chemistry department, is to carry out vital research into skin cancer thanks to a new grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The team, based in the School of Life Sciences, has been awarded a £428K grant to research a protein called PHIP(2) which is present in high amounts in melanoma.

Melanoma is a devastating cancer of the skin, the occurrence of which is on the rise. It can be treated surgically but long-term survival tends to be poor and clinical treatments often prove too aggressive or ineffective.

Professor Spencer’s Lab, along with Paul Brennan and Frank von Delft at the Structural Genomics Consortium at Oxford University, will work to target the PHIP(2) protein with drug-like molecules to try to stop the cancer’s progression.

The new project will enable the scientists to study the role the protein plays in the development of melanoma and other aggressive cancers.

Professor Spencer said: “If we are to understand melanoma better it is crucial we work to find out why this protein is present in high amounts of this type of skin cancer.

“This new project work stems from earlier grant funding from Worldwide Cancer Research where we found a new use from molecules that we’d initially made to target another cancer protein called p53.

“It pays to recycle molecules as it takes a lot of effort to make them so finding another, unexpected application is rewarding.”

The project will also include working with Dr David De Semir, from the California Pacific Medical Center, a world expert in PHIP(2) biology and Bio-Techne/Tocris Biosciences and Selcia industrial partners, who will help exploit the findings in order to make them widely available to cancer researchers.

Rob Felix, Head of Product Management for Tocris at Bio-Techne, said: “After many years of successful collaboration, Tocris Bioscience are delighted to now have the opportunity to work with the Spencer group on a project to develop truly novel and innovative chemical probes for cancer research.”


By: Lynsey Ford
Last updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2017