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Scottish scientists share in EU jackpot

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by Cancer Research UK | News

21 July 2004

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Scientists at Glasgow’s renowned Beatson Institute for Cancer Research are sharing in the largest-ever EU grant in their field, Cancer Research UK reports today.

“Interaction Proteome” will receive €12 million (about £8 million) over the next five years. The project brings together some of the best researchers from across Europe, its aim to catalogue the complex functions and interactions of thousands of proteins found in the human body.

Proteins are made by the genes in our cells and affect every aspect of cell behaviour. Cancers can develop when proteins are not working properly. The pioneering new project will analyse which proteins have an important role in cancer, and identify new targets for anticancer drugs.

Professor Walter Kolch, leading the work at the Beatson Institute, says: “Proteomics is an emerging science that aims to answer questions about proteins and how they work. There are many researchers in Scotland already studying proteomics, so this project is a chance for us to take the lead and establish a firm basis for future research.”

Professor Kolch’s team, located at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Laboratories, was asked to join forces with other leading scientists in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.

A range of techniques are required to meet the ambitions of the project, and new technology is going to be developed by the project’s partners. This technology should also yield powerful tools for future medical research, including cancer research.

The Beatson will be involved at every stage of the project, from studying protein interactions at a molecular level to visualising them with new, state-of-the-art multiphoton microscopes.

Professor Kolch describes the complex interactions between proteins as being like an intricate machine: “Interaction Proteome is going to take the molecular machinery apart, examine every component, and get a better idea of exactly how it works.

“The project has huge implications for our understanding of cancer. We will be able to categorise the proteins that are faulty in cancer, and design new drugs using this knowledge.”

Professor James Cassidy, Chair of the Cancer Research UK Department of Medical Oncology at Glasgow University, says: “Interaction Proteome is a welcome example of scientists working together to answer key biological questions, combining specialist technologies in a way that no one group could ever do alone.

“The project will essentially do for proteins what the Human Genome Project did for genes. It will deliver a wealth of data on how and where proteins talk to each other, which will undoubtedly help us develop treatments for cancer.”