Vousden lab

Karen Vousden : p53 and Metabolism Laboratory

Our research focuses on two related questions; how do changes in the metabolism affect cancer development and progression, and how does the protein p53 control tumour development?

We know that cancer cells depend on their powerful ability to access and metabolise the nutrients that they need to grow, divide and survive. Mutations or alterations in the cancer cells themselves can drive these metabolic changes, but the metabolism of the patient also plays an important role. For example, we know that the metabolic changes that occur in response to obesity help to support the development of many types of cancer.

We have been very interested in understanding how metabolism influences the behaviour of cancer cells, and have focused on exploring how changes in diet could help to limit cancer progression. Metabolic changes can also control oxidative stress, which is known to contribute to cancer development. Our work seeks to understand the effects of antioxidants and how they might be best used for cancer treatment.

We are also studying a very important protein called p53, which normally helps cells respond to biological emergencies such as DNA damage or stress caused by low oxygen levels. We have found that p53 also helps cells survive transient periods of starvation. Many cancer cells have lost p53, which may make them more sensitive to nutrient deprivation. This work is pointing to new potential treatments that target vulnerabilities particular to cancerous cells, resulting in less damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.