Julia Cordero awarded Pioneer Award
23rd May 2019
The Institute of Cancer Science’s Dr Julia Cordero has been awarded a Cancer Research UK Pioneer Award. These awards fund innovative, higher-risk ideas that could revolutionise our understanding of cancer.
Julia’s project will use fruit flies as a model system to study cancer-driven behavioural changes. These behavioural changes specifically relate to sleep disturbances and changes in feeding/eating habits. Disturbances to both of these are often experienced by cancer patients.
This is something that needs to be addressed, not only because these issues greatly affect a person’s quality of life, but also because these disturbances can actually affect how well the tumour responds to treatment and therefore how successful the cancer treatment is. So the potential benefit of addressing these behavioural changes is two-pronged: improving quality of life by improving sleep and nutrition, but also improving the chance of successful treatment.
‘There have been a lot of correlational studies on this, but as of now there is very little science,’ Julia said. This is where Julia’s Pioneer Award project steps in. The project aims to dig down into the specific molecular mechanisms underlying how intestinal tumours affect sleeping and eating behaviours.
It is already known that the intestine controls cellular signalling pathways that affect other parts of the body, including the brain. This project will look into how they do this and how this leads to changes in sleeping and eating. The hypothesis is that tumours actively influence brain function.
The ultimate goal of the work is to develop therapies specifically aimed at addressing these sleeping and eating disturbances in cancer patients. Such therapies might include small molecules or peptides, some of which are already in use for other conditions.