Research carried out by a Massey PhD student could help chemotherapy drugs work more effectively.
Dr Natisha Magan’s research has focused on an enzyme called Topoisomerase Ila, an enzyme present in all cells, which can affect the success of chemotherapeutic drugs. Her research also found an important link between a well known protein and the topoisomarase gene.
“There is more of the topoisomerase IIa enzyme in cells that are dividing a lot, which cancer cells do,” Dr Magan says. “That makes it one of the more common targets of chemotherapy. However, there is a correlation that less of the enzyme can increase resistance to chemotherapy."
The goal is to identify targets that make more or less of the enzyme to better understand the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy works by breaking the DNA strands that make up cells. The body has mechanisms that repair those breaks, which reduces the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
“Genes begin with a DNA sequence that proteins bind to, which can regulate expression of the gene. My research has identified three or more of these proteins that are involved in the regulation of the topoisomerase IIα gene. A well-known protein, PARP-1, which is known to aid in DNA repair, is also important in relation to topoisomerase IIa. We demonstrated that by inhibiting PARP-1, as well as stopping DNA repair in cancer cells, it is possible to also increase the amount of the topoisomerase IIa enzyme in a cell, which means you could achieve more effective chemotherapy.”
Dr Magan, who worked in the Institute of Molecular BioSciences supervised by Associate Professor Kathryn Stowell, received her degree in Palmerston North on May 11. Her work was funded through a Massey Doctoral Scholarship, with help from the Todd Foundation for Excellence and the Isobel and Edward Kidson Scholarship. The research also received funding from the Palmerston North Medical Research Foundation.