Examination of the Effects of Acid-Exposure on Oesophageal-Cancer Cells: Examining its Effects on Calcium (Ca2+) Signals which Promote Cancer Growth

Research Summary


Alana Cutliffe

Oesophageal cancers (OCs) are the sixth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Oesophageal Adenocarcinoma (OAC) is the most common type in Western Europe and its incidence is rising. OAC has poor survival rates, with a lot of patients being resistant to current chemotherapies.

The top-ranking, risk-factor for OAC-development is “Barrett’s Oesophagus” (BO). Here, the cells normally lining the oesophagus change in shape, size and function. Another risk-factor, linked to BO, is gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). Here, stomach acid and bile acids enter and irritate the oesophagus.

Our project focuses on largely-unexamined molecular targets in OAC: Ca2+-signalling proteins. Ca2+ is a messenger in the cell and regulates several aspects of cell biology. The amount of Ca2+ in a cell is controlled by Ca2+-signalling proteins: a family with over one-thousand members. Some of these proteins sense acid outside the cell and modify Ca2+ within the cell accordingly. In cancer cells, such modification results in tumour growth and spread.

Little to no work has been carried-out on the distribution of Ca2+-signalling proteins in the cell and OAC patient survival. Even less research has been carried-out on how certain Ca2+-signalling proteins may be sensing acidic environments and be remodelled to favour cancer-formation.

Working with OAC and normal oesophageal cells, we will use state-of-the-art, laboratory techniques to investigate whether OAC is driven by Ca2+ signalling and if this signalling is, in turn, stimulated by acid. The characterization of such pathway(s) would help in the development of novel chemotherapeutic drugs.

Start year
End year
Principal Investigator
Dr John Mackrill
Alana Cutliffe
University College Cork
Irish Research Council Enterprise Partnership Scheme with Breakthrough as the partner
Linked To Breakthrough Priorities
1, 4, 6

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