Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

May 09, 2005

U of G Prof Gets Major Grant for Cancer Research

A University of Guelph professor has received more than $713,000 from the Canadian Cancer Society to support ongoing and groundbreaking research on a membrane protein involved in resistance of tumours to chemotherapy drugs.

Frances Sharom, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, is among 81 researchers nationwide who will share in nearly $21 million in new funding from the national community-based organization. “My research group and I are delighted to have been funded for another five years to continue the important challenge of overcoming cancer, a disease that has touched almost all Canadians in some way,” she said.

Peter Goodhand, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society's Ontario division, said all projects are rigorously reviewed by an expert panel of scientists to ensure that only the most promising are funded and that grants are awarded to only the best researchers.

Sharom will use the funding to continue her research into the membrane transport protein P-glycoprotein. The protein is important in non-cancerous cells because it’s thought to protect the body against toxic natural products by pumping them out of the cells. In tumours, however, its action has been described as a “double-edged sword”, since it also pumps out chemotherapy drugs, enabling the cells to survive and grow.

She hopes that, by identifying how this process works, her research could help solve the problem of how cancer cells become resistant to drugs designed to kill them. Her long-term goal is to develop new treatments for improving chemotherapy in drug-resistant forms of cancer.

"During the next five years, we will continue our work on the P-glycoprotein molecule, exploring how so many different chemotherapy drugs can interact with this protein and how ATP energy is harnessed to pump them out across the cell membrane,” she said.

Sharom, who holds a prestigious Canada Research Chair in Membrane Protein Biology, studies the structure and function of several membrane proteins using novel biochemical and biophysical approaches. About one-third of all sequences in the human genome encode membrane proteins, which play a vital role in cancer, genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, and bacterial and viral infections.Yet scientists have only a rudimentary knowledge of their structure and how they carry out their biological function at the molecular level, she said.

She is the author of over 100 refereed journal articles and book chapters, and is a past president of the Canadian Society of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology. Sharom's work is also supported by Science and Engineering Research Canada (NSERC) and the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation.

Prof. Frances Sharom
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 52247

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