Dr Ben Hall, MRC Cancer Unit, and his research group have begun exploring how membrane transporters can be used as potential markers or drug targets in the future. Published in Nature Communications, their research shows for the first time that alterations in the expression of these membrane transporters consistently occur in all cancers.
Membrane transporters are proteins used to maintain the concentration gradients of various chemicals between the exterior and interior of a cell. The gradients of these chemicals are then generally used for processes like maintaining cell size (osmotic regulation), and are signalling molecules for processes like cell migration and division.
The researchers were able to construct a computational model of the key chemical gradients and transporters within a cell, and show precisely how changes in the expression of them can alter cancer cell behaviour.