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Cancer Cell Biology and Drug Discovery

Our Research is focused on the oncogene RAS. We exploit our insights into the functioning of RAS to develop new drugs against cancer. 

Our mission is to eRASe Cancer!

The Cancer Cell Biology and Drug Discovery Group belongs to the Life Sciences Research Unit of the Université du Luxembourg and we are located on the Belval Campus.

The number of cancer caused deaths in the world is expected to rise from about 9M in 2015 to 15M in the follwing 20 years. Novel therapeutic approaches against cancer are therefore urgently needed.

We are developing novel targeted drugs, which would be administered in a personalized manner, depending on gene expression, mutation status and/or other diagnostic parameters (altogether biomarkers) obtained from the patient.

 

Our approach against cancer

We focus on inhibiting specifically the aberrant activity of one of the cancer associated Ras isoforms, HRAS, NRAS or KRAS. These three RAS genes are typically associated with certain cancers only, e.g. only KRAS is highly mutated in pancreatic cancer.

RAS is only active, when bound to the cellular plasma membrane. Within the plasma membrane RAS has a specific nanoscale organisation, which is required to engage effectors and emit specific signaling. We try to understand how the RAS isoform specific signaling complexes work and look like.

Our research aims are:

  • To define the composition of RAS nanoscale membrane signaling complexes (nanocluster).
  • To analyze the spatio-temporal interplay between the RAS nanocluster components.
  • To understand which components of RAS nanoclusters could be drug-targeted to block tumorigenic RAS signalling.
  • To develop novel drugs that block RAS signalling in cancer.

Our core methodologies

  • molecular cancer cell biology (mammalian cell culture, proliferation, sphere cultures)
  • biochemistry (protein interaction, structure)
  • quantitative fluorescence methods and confocal imaging (FRET, FRAP etc.)