Ratcliffe Group: for non-scientists
An introduction to our work for people who are not experts.
Cancer is playing chess with you - but blinded
We are working to understand how very extensive pathways that signal for hypoxia (low oxygen) affect cancer development. These pathways are ‘switched’ on as the cancer grows and consumes oxygen.
But the ‘switch’ is out of context or not quite right. Usually your cells will detect this and shut down (stop growing or die) - like removing a piece from a chess board. Only very occasionally can cancer cells find a way through - and win the game. The cancer cell cannot ‘see’ what needs to be done, like a chess player. So how can it win?
The problem is that under pressure to avoid elimination, cancer cells change - creating new clones. This is like opening up a new board - and another and another. Once it is has got too many boards the cancer is difficult to cover - and dangerous. Cancer treatment effectively cuts the number of boards, and sometimes this works. But hypoxia does the reverse. Our aim is to understand how hypoxia works to increase the complexity of cancer (i.e. increase the number of chess boards) and to stop this.
If we can restrict its options early on, we can prevent cancer or effectively stop it finding new pathways to grow - this is what we are trying to do.