London Met Cancer Pharmacology MSc lecturer Chris Palmer talks to us about his research into transmembrane proteins and their role in the spread of cancers throughout the body.
Chris, what interests you about the field of cancer pharmacology?
Cancer is something that affects us all as individuals, families and colleagues. My specialty and technical expertise is studying ion channels and transporters which play an important role in breast, colon and prostate cancer. This is a relatively new area of cancer research and exciting work is being done by labs worldwide. We know that these transmembrane proteins play key roles in the ability of these cancers to spread to other parts of the body; stopping this spread is the solution to treating cancer.
You previously worked at Imperial and at a university in the USA. Tell us a bit about your background…
I obtained a PhD from Oxford Brookes University and then worked at Reading University on the HIV-1 gp120 transmembrane protein. Subsequently I moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for six years to study mechanosensitive ion channels. After that I obtained a grant from the Wellcome Trust to investigate ion channels in cancer and yeast and for the last six years I have been employed at London Met as a reader and then as a professor in molecular membrane signalling and cancer.
What research projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a translational project attempting to identify antibodies and peptides which bind to and block sodium channels in breast and colon cancer and citrate transporters in prostate cancer. Since these proteins are so important in the spread of these cancers trying to find targeted biopharmaceuticals which inhibit these molecules is a big part of my research effort as well as continuing to understand how they contribute to cancer spread.
Has London Met’s School of Human Sciences made any big research breakthroughs?
London Met is a key player in investigating the role of microvesicles in cancer. Last year an international conference in this area was held here and we have scientists from various countries coming to London Met to study this biological phenomenon which is increasingly seen to be important in many aspects of cellular biology.
What kinds of facilities do science students at London Met have access to?
We have a modern equipped lab for molecular biology, tissue culture for bioassays, flow cytometers for antibody binding analysis and microvesicle study, and fluorescent microscopes for visualising cellular antigens. Additionally, a drug formulation unit is being established here as well as equipment for HPLC, NMR and mass spectroscopy.
What kinds of careers do your students go into?
Many students who have a real flair for research go on to find PhD positions either here at London Met or at other European universities. Other students find employment as research specialists in big pharmaceutical companies in this country or in the USA.
"I’m working on a translational project attempting to identify antibodies and peptides which bind to and block sodium channels in breast and colon cancer and citrate transporters in prostate cancer."
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