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Professor Ravi Acharya
Professor Ravi Acharya
Photo by Nic Delves Broughton, University Photographer

Press Release - 03 September 2007

£1M project to investigate tumour growth molecules

A University of Bath researcher has been awarded more than £1 million to study a group of molecules involved in the growth of tumours.

Professor Ravi Acharya, from the University’s Department of Biology & Biochemistry, will investigate the structure and function of the proteins implicated in helping new blood vessels to grow.

This process, which is known as angiogenesis, plays a key role in developing embryos as well as in other normal processes, such as wound healing and tissue and organ regeneration.

However, angiogenesis is also vital for the growth and spread of cancerous tumours. Also, when the normal processes fail, this can lead to common chronic inflammatory disease, such as arthritis and macular degeneration.

“The process of blood vessel formation is now understood to be complex, highly coordinated and dependent on a set of critical protein interactions,” said Professor Acharya.

“After decades of work, the first anti-angiogenic treatments which stop the formation of blood vessels in tumours have arrived.

“In the coming decades more than 500 million people are predicted to benefit from angiogenesis treatments.

“However, the precise molecular events triggered by different angiogenic molecules still remain unclear, mainly because the biological properties of these molecules vary considerably.”

The £1 million five-year project funded by the Wellcome Trust will investigate several of these molecules, including Angiogenin and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor.

Whilst these are known to play an important role in, for example, guiding the development of the growing blood vessel, exactly how they work remains unknown.

By understanding the molecular basis of how these molecules work, researchers hope to be able to develop drugs for a range of clinical applications.

This could, for example, include treatments for cancer that prevent tumours from growing and spreading.

“Therapeutic angiogenesis is an exciting frontier of modern medicine,” said Professor Acharya.

“But a detailed understanding of the molecular mechanisms of various players in the angiogenesis process is needed first.”

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