Zainab Al Shareef, a PhD student in the Wnt team of the Prostate Cancer Group in the Division of Cancer, has been awarded a prestigious Distinguished Scholarship Award in the category of Innovative Ideas by the Ministry of Interior, Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates (UAE). This is the first year for these awards, which were created to honour Emirati scholarship students from government and private agencies from around the world.
Zainab was presented with the award by General HH Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. The ceremony, held in the presence of Her Excellency Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi, President of the Federal National Council, took place at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Abu Dhabi on January 6th. Zainab’s proposal was to establish a Tumour Bank in the UAE with the dual aims of tackling the genetic causes of cancer that are most prevalent in this region and improving the academic and financial sectors through establishment of a postgraduate research plan that integrates with the global biotechnology market. Zainab was previously honoured by the UAE embassy in London for high academic achievement.
This new study, carried out in collaboration with the Centre for Cooperative Research in Biosciences (CIC bioGUNE) in Bilbao and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, shows that Dkk-3 limits epithelial cell proliferation in 3D cultures and during mouse prostate gland development. It is well known that TGF-β signals go awry during cancer progression; switching from tumour suppression to tumour promotion. This study shows that loss of Dkk-3 activates TGF-β signalling – inhibition of which rescues the 3D phenotype.
The results provide further support and rationale for the use of TGF-β inhibitors to treat prostate cancer. They may also be relevant to other cancers, such as those of the breast and the ovary, where similar changes in Dkk-3 and the TGF-β response take place. The studies at Imperial were carried out by Diana Romero and Yoshiaki Kawano, now at Kumamoto University in Japan, and were funded by a Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Project Grant awarded to Robert Kypta and Jonathan Waxman.