Our heroes wear white capes

CNapier photo

Children’s Medical Research Institute scientist Christine Napier will have been part of the team for six years come April.

For the past three years the focus of her work has been on a protein called ATRX.

And she says it will be the focus of the rest of her working life.

“This is it for me – my life. Christine and ATRX… We are one.”

It is a protein which Christine believes could hold the cure for 15 per cent of cancers.

“In normal, healthy cells there are chromosome caps called telomeres which get shorter as we get older. Telomeres tell normal cells to stop growing and are part of the reason we age,” she said.

“But in cancer cells, which have the ability to live forever, telomeres do not become shorter – they are maintained.

“We believe ATRX is one of the switches that controls the lengthening of telomeres – the main difference between normal cells growing a limited number of times and cancer cells living forever.

“ATRX is present in normal healthy cells, but not in a subset of cancer cells. If we take advantage of this missing protein and replenish ATRX in cancer cells, it may lead to more selective cancer drugs.”

It is a hypothesis Cure Cancer Australia Foundation invested just shy of $200,000 to help support Christine’s research for the next two years.

“What this means is I can focus on my research for at least one year without having to worry about funding,” Christine said.

“And it means I have job security for the next two years.”

In that time, Christine says she’ll be able to publish her research to better her track record, which will in the long term make her more competitive in future research grant and fellowship applications.

Without these grants, Christine’s research could come to an end.

It’s the life of a scientist and an unfortunate reality.

But thanks to Cure Cancer Australia Foundation, Christine’s hope of finding a cure for cancer by further researching her hypothesis around the protein ATRX has been kept alive for another two years.

To read more about Christine’s research and the work they do at Children’s Medical Research Institute click here

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