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Funding from the NCI! Unraveling the Role of PRL-3 in Cancer

We recently received 2 extra years of funding on my R37 award from the National Cancer Institute to study how the phosphatase PRL-3 contributes to cancer progression! PRL-3 is a known oncogene, which plays a crucial role in cancer development and metastasis in solid tumors and leukemias, but even though PRL-3’s importance in cancer was discovered 20 years ago, we still aren’t really sure how it drives cancer progression. Understanding how PRL-3 promotes cancer is essential to developing new anti-cancer drugs that can target PRL-3. PRL-3 is typically located at the cell membrane, where it interacts with proteins to regulate metal homeostasis, which is important for normal cellular functions. Recent discoveries from our lab and others show that PRL-3 can move between the cell membrane and the nucleus, where it might interact with DNA. The reason and significance of this movement for cancer progression is unclear. We have developed new tools and models to explore PRL-3’s impact in different cellular locations and to unravel the mechanisms behind its trafficking. 

The goals for our R37 extension period are to 1) study how PRL-3’s location in the cell affects its cancer-causing function, 2) investigate how PRL-3 moves between the cell membrane and the nucleus, and 3) develop new PRL-3 inhibitors, particularly using our new PRL-3 nanobody that can specifically target PRL-3. 

By defining PRL-3’s function in the cell, we hope to identify proteins that regulate its function, which can lead to the development of new therapies (and additional grant funding!)


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