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‘Cell suicide programme’ can be key to treating lung cancer

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‘Cell suicide programme’ can be key to treating lung cancer

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Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Health and also in Education

Professor Dean Fennell of the University of Leicester Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine. Professor Dean Fennell of the University of Leicester Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine.

A University of Leicester cancer expert will explain how a ‘cell suicide programme’ can be one of the most effective ways of dealing with lung cancer.

Leading lung cancer oncologist and former CRUK clinical research fellow Professor Dean Fennell will give his inaugural lecture Finding the keys to Pandora's Box to attack Achilles' Heels on Tuesday, January 15.

He will explain how coaxing cells into self destruction can be a very effective way of treating lung cancers and mesothelioma – a type of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos.

Professor Dean Fennell said: “Evasion of cell death is a recognised signature of cancer and contributes fundamentally to drug resistance. In recent years, it has emerged that these strategies used to survive, are also potential vulnerabilities – ‘Achilles’ heels’ - which may be efficiently targeted in the clinic, with real benefits for patients.

“The most effective way to deal with cancers of the lung, and mesothelioma is to induce a biochemical cell suicide programme called apoptosis. In this scenario, mitochondria are major players in this war– and collectively behave as the cancer cell’s ready-made ‘Pandora’s box’. Finding the keys to unleash apoptosis is not trivial but here, massive advances are being made.

“Furthermore, cancer cells can find ways of ‘changing the lock’. Using lung cancer and mesothelioma, I will show how we are discovering and assessing the tools to both unlock Pandora’s box and attack Achilles’ heels. I will show how this strategy is likely to shape the future of therapy for patients with lung cancer and mesothelioma for improved outcomes.”

Professor Fennell joined the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester as Chair of Thoracic Medical Oncology last year.

He has previously worked to improve treatments of lung cancer and mesothelioma through his laboratory studies at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at the Queen's University of Belfast.

The lecture will be held in Lecture Theatre 1 of the Ken Edwards Building, University of Leicester main campus, at 5.30pm on January 15. The event is free and open to the public.

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