The research project, ‘HIRA orchestrates non-canonical dynamic chromatin in senescence and is required for suppression of neoplasia’, was funded by CR UK and NIA and is a collaboration between UWS, The Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, and the University of Glasgow.

The research, published in the journal, Genes & Development, is hugely important in the field of cancer research, as most of the efforts to date have been focussed on genetic alterations in cancer.

This work highlights that in addition to genetic alterations, key players are proteins that associate with DNA and are the major determinants of progression to cancer. This six-year project saw the researchers, through the study of cells present in our skin, discover a protein, HIRA, which helps stop cancer developing and could in time lead to new cancer treatments and is likely to open up new therapeutic targets in fight against cancer.

Dr Taranjit Singh Rai of University of the West of Scotland’s School of Science and Sport said: “Every one of us has moles on our skins that all have already acquired the gene that can mutate into cancer, however for most of us this does not happen. Our research investigated why this doesn’t happen and discovered a protein called HIRA that actually maintains the state in the cell which prevents the onset of cancer.

“As cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells, the discovery of this protein is relevant to all forms of cancer and not just those related to the skin.

“However it is important to stress that we have found one way that a cell can stop cancer, but potentially there are many other ways so at present we are still quite far away from translating this discovery into therapy but it is gives us an important insight into understanding better how a cell prevents cancer.”



University of the West of Scotland: ‘UWS-led research discovers protein that stops cancer developing

View the full report in the journal, Genes and Development

The Beatson Institute for Cancer Research

University of Glasgow