Sphingosine Kinase 1 (SK1) | RAH Research Fund

It may be microscopic, but SK1 is incredibly life-threatening.

Dr Melissa Pitman, RAH Research Fund Florey Fellow. Head of Drug Discovery Unit, Molecular Signalling Laboratory, Centre for Cancer Biology

For more than 20 years, the Molecular Signalling Laboratory within the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) has been investigating the tiny, dangerous protein called sphingosine kinase 1 or SK1.

This work is a collaboration of many talented people. The Molecular Signalling Laboratory works closely with Professor Martin Oehler, Director of Gynaecological Oncology at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH). I am honoured to be working with this team to live my dream to make a difference in the world.

SK1 is present in all of us, in every cell. SK1 has a partner protein called Calcium and Integrin Binding Family Member 2 or CIB2, which keeps SK1 sitting where it needs to be in our cells. CIB2 acts like an ‘off switch’.

Unfortunately in some women, this ‘off switch’ CIB2 is lost, which means that SK1 is in a different location in a cell, close to the plasma membrane. When SK1 sits here, it is ‘switched on’ – and promotes the growth, metastasis and chemotherapeutic resistance of ovarian cancer cells.

It may be microscopic, but this protein is incredibly life-threatening.

Many cancer patients will initially respond to the current chemotherapeutic regime. But for many others, because the SK1 protein is ‘switched on’, their cells literally ignore the ‘death’ signal from chemotherapy.

They develop resistance to treatment. Chemotherapy cannot attack the cancer cells in these patients. Tragically, most will succumb to the disease within 18 months.

Click to here to find out more about Melissa’s research…

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