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Press release

  • 22 August 2006

Cancer scientists receive £5.6 million to fund research

Grants totalling £5.6 million have been made to cancer scientists at the University of Sussex's world-renowned Genome Damage and Stability Centre.

The funding by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for the next five years ensures that Professors Penny Jeggo, Tony Carr and Alan Lehmann can further their research into some of the causes and consequences of cell damage.

Professor Lehmann, Chairman of the Genome Centre, commented: " We are thrilled to have been awarded these large grants. The proposals all got high scores from the MRC awarding panels, which is terrific recognition of the quality of our research. Our work is designed to understand fundamental processes inside cells, but it has many important implications for understanding, diagnosing and curing human diseases."

Damage to the DNA molecules that make up our genomes is the fundamental cause of cancer. The ability of our cells to repair this damage is a major way of protecting us from cancer. These cellular defence processes are also crucial for correct development of our immune and neurological systems and they stop us from ageing prematurely.

  • Professor Jeggo's grant of £1.5 million is for two related projects. The first deals with the repair of a particularly lethal type of damage in which both strands of the DNA double helix are broken. These breaks are difficult to repair and, if not repaired properly, can lead to immune deficiencies and developmental delay. She is also investigating how cells send signals from the damaged DNA to the rest of the cell. Deficiencies in "damage signalling" can result in neurological and immune disorders and Professor Jeggo is working to devise diagnostic tests and ultimately alleviate these conditions.
  • Professor Carr has gained international renown for his work on DNA damage signalling using the fission yeast as a model system. His work has shown that damage signalling is an intricate process involving many components and that it coordinates many different biological functions. His new grant of £2.2 million will enable him to continue his study of how some of these components carry out the different steps in the signalling processes and how they interact with other pathways in the cell. He will also be collaborating with Professor Jeggo in extrapolating the findings from his work with yeast into human cell studies.
  • Part of Professor Lehmann's £2.1 million grant is to further his research in the cell enzyme processes that lead to sunlight-induced skin cancer. He is also studying a new "enzyme machine" that his group have discovered. They know that it has many components and is needed to repair certain types of DNA damage, and they are trying to find out how it works and if defects result in known diseases.

Professor Carr, Director of the Genome Centre, says: "We are very fortunate to have an excellent team of DPhil students, junior and senior scientists plus technical staff and to have the support from our colleagues in Life Sciences. Much of the credit for these successful grant applications should be given to these colleagues".

Notes for editors

University of Sussex press contacts; Jacqui Bealing or Alison Field, tel: 01273 678888, email:


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