Institute of Genetic Medicine

Staff Profile

Dr Jennifer Munkley

Faculty Fellow

Background

My research aims to exploit an important yet understudied group of sugar molecules (known as glycans) to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Glycans are found on the cell surface of and secreted by cancer cells and change dramatically in all types of cancer.

 

Our research into glycosylation has led us to propose that aberrant glycosylation is a general hallmark of all cancers. Glycans are involved in all stages of cancer progression and play key roles in tumour development, growth and invasion. However, the molecular details underlying these changes are poorly understood, and of the four fundamental building blocks of life (proteins, glycans, lipids and nucleic acids) glycans have been the least studied. 

 

In recent work we showed that in prostate cancer the system for making glycans and adding them to the cell (called glycosylation) is turned on by the signals that cause cancers to grow in men and turned off by the therapies which cause tumours to shrink. We also showed that these glycan producing enzymes are upregulated in prostate tumours and are essential for prostate cancer cell survival.

 

We are now investigating how these glycans influence prostate cancer cell behaviour, testing if they can be targeted by new treatments, and seeing if we can detect them as part of a new blood test to improve diagnosis.

 

Work in our group is funded by Prostate Cancer UK.


Area of expertise

  • Glycosylation in cancer


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Publications