Understanding the molecular activities of oncogenes and how they interact functionally to drive and maintain tumours is central to the identification of plausible therapeutic interventions. Despite the fact that the myc oncogene was discovered over thirty years ago, its nature as a pleiotropic transcription factor has complicated analysis of its precise functions. We are currently investigating the mechanism of cooperation between Myc and oncogenic Ras proteins both in cultured cells and in genetically modified animals using reversible systemic or tissue-specific switching of oncogene expression or oncoprotein activity.
We are also investigating the commonalities of functions between oncogenes. For example, recent evidence indicates that the Adenovirus E1A protein functionally compensates for Myc in cultured cells – it is able to drive cell proliferation and apoptosis in the absence of Myc activity. However, whether E1A is isofunctional with Myc in the genesis and maintenance of tumours (for example, by recruiting and supporting the tumour microenvironment) has yet to be determined.
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