Luka Bevc - ESR 2

Name: Luka Bevc

: Slovenian

Main Host Institution: BRIC, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Academic Background: Bachelor and Masters in Biochemistry, University of Ljubljana

Project title: Targeting cancer specific aberrations through novel synthetic lethal pathway interactions with epigenetic pathways

Project background: Cancer is a major health issue of our time. General treatments with irradiation and chemotherapy have been available for many years however, few cancer specific treatments exist. The DNA in our chromosomes contains the blueprint of life, and it should remain unchanged during lifetime. Unfortunately, changes in DNA tend to accumulate in cells, and this is accelerated when the normal cells are transformed to cancer cells. Cells are equipped with mechanisms to repair and correct DNA changes, however, these mechanisms are at times insufficient. This is especially the case in breast and ovarian cancers, where cancer cells often acquire mutations in the very enzymes that should help repair DNA. Accordingly, these mutations lead to further increase in the genetic lesions in cells, which accelerates cancer development.

I would like to exploit the increase in DNA damage in cancerous cells by stressing them even further to levels cancer cells cannot survive. I intend to achieve this by influencing cell epigenetics. Epigenetics encompasses heritable chromosomal modifications, which have a wide variety of biological functions. Changes in epigenetics can lead to variety of abnormalities, such as increased cellular stress and DNA damage. By influencing cell epigenetics and increasing cellular stress, I hope to eradicate cancer cells that acquired mutations in DNA repair enzymes while still sparing the healthy cells with functioning DNA repair pathways. 

Project aim: My aim is to develop a drug that would specifically target epigenetic enzyme of interest and test its effectiveness on inducing cellular stress in cells with and without mutations in DNA repair genes.

Expected outcome: I expect to discover a drug that specifically targets the epigenetic enzyme of interest, as well as determine its effectiveness on inducing cell stress in cells with and without mutations in DNA repair genes. I expect to obtain insight into the drug mechanism of action as well.

Contact: Luka Bevc