Senior Research Scientist, Saskatchewan Cancer Agency
Professor, Division of Oncology
B.Sc. (Hons) University of Salford (UK),
Ph.D. University of Calgary
My laboratory's chief interest revolves around the structure and control of a human gene called SRC (pronounced SARK). This gene codes for an enzyme which regulates the rate at which a cell divides as well as its ability to move and migrate. If there is too much of the enzyme or it is in an activated state this can contribute to the development of cancer, particularly tumors of the large intestine and breast. We have isolated the complete human gene and have spent the last several years learning what makes SRC tick. To do this we have been studying the genes promoters. Promoters are discrete regions of a gene which act like the volume control on a Hi-Fi regulating the level of SRC produced. Our hope has been to find ways of turning down the volume on the SRC gene. Most lately we have found that a chemical called butyrate (which is a simple natural by-product of bacterial fermentation in the colon) can do exactly this! This provides an exciting link between a colon cancer gene and the food we eat and may help explain how high fiber diets are thought to inhibit the development of bowel cancer. Currently, we are working hard to understand how butyrate and related chemicals are able to control the SRC promoters. Ultimately, this may help us develop new drugs to control SRC levels in tumors such as breast cancer where SRC levels are high. This research is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.