Dr Fiona Bangs
Oxford Institute of Radiation Oncology
University of Oxford
Cilia are present on most vertebrate cells, however in many cancers cilia are lost rendering cells incapable of responding to intercellular signals, in particular Hedgehog. The aim of my research is to understand how ciliogenesis is blocked in tumour cells and how cilia loss impacts cancer progression.
I am focusing on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), predicted to become the second biggest killer by 2020. This is because PDAC is often not detected until the disease has reached an advanced stage and frequently spread, making the average life expectancy of PDAC patients a dismal 4.4 months. If we were able to reliably detect the disease earlier we would be able to significantly improve patient survival. Cilia loss is one of the earliest events to occur in PDAC. I am investigating whether the absence of primary cilia could be used as a biomarker to detect early stage lesions before tumours reach an advanced stage.