CANCER RESEARCH CURRENTLY SUPPORTED BY THE TRUST

An early marker of sarcomas

Professor Sharon Prince: Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Division of Biochemistry, University of Cape Town
The initiation of cancer can partly be characterised by the deregulation of proteins called transcription factors that can regulate gene expression. TBX3 is critical in ensuring the normal development of an embryo and contributes to the formation of several cancers. It is a key factor in the development and spread of melanoma and breast cancer. We will study the status of TBX3 mRNA and protein levels in biopsies and blood samples of sarcoma patients. This has important implications for the early diagnosis and effective treatment of sarcomas that are some of the most aggressive cancers in children and adolescents.

Garlic organosulfur compounds in the prevention of cancer

Dr Catherine Kaschula: Clinical Laboratory Sciences, University of Cape Town
Prevention is the key to managing cancer as most are diagnosed and treated at advanced stages. Some 50-80 % of cancers are preventable as their cause is largely external, including diet and lifestyle. Garlic has been used for centuries for its beneficial health effects. The sulfur containing compounds in crushed cloves strengthen the immune system and protect against cancer. One of these compounds, ajoene, inhibits cancer cell proliferation and induces apoptosis in cancer cells. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) dampen the inflammatory response in cancer to aid in tumour control. We propose that ajoene and related garlic compounds may be natural NSAIDs that can strengthen the host immune system to help eliminate emerging tumour cells.

Pathways to breast cancer care

Professor Jennifer Moodley, Women’s Health Research Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, and Cancer Research Initiative, University of Cape Town
Breast cancer is the commonest cancer among women in South Africa and, as in other developing countries, most women present with late stage disease, which is associated with a poor outcome. To assist in earlier presentation and improved survival we aim to understand the pathway patients follow to access breast cancer care and determine the multi-level factors associated with late presentation. This study is co-funded by CANSA.

Vaginal microbiota and the human papillomavirus infections

Professor Anna-Lise Williamson: Division of Medical Virology, Clinical Laboratory Sciences, University of Cape Town
Cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related mortality in South African women. The role of infection with specific human papillomavirus (HPV) types in its development is well established. Most HPV infections are cleared but persistent infection with oncogenic HPV types may result in cervical cancer. We will study the potential importance of the vaginal bacterial communities or microbiota of South African women in HPV infections.

Mobile technology to improve management and follow-up of clients with cervical cancer precursor lesion

Professor Jennifer Moodley, Women’s Health Research Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, and Cancer Research Initiative, University of Cape Town
Cervical cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. A Pap smear can detect pre-cancerous abnormalities, and if treated, cervical cancer can be prevented. Pap smear screening programmes are successful in developed countries, but in developing countries, like South Africa, many women with abnormal Pap smears are lost to follow-up. We aim to determine the potential of mobile phone technology to improve the management and follow-up of clients with pre-cancerous cervical lesions. This study is co-funded by CANSA.