The role of LIM kinase 2 in the spread of cancer

Lead researcher

Dr Ora Bernard


St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research

Years funded


This project explores the role of a molecule in the spread of cancer from the original tumour to other parts of the body. The results may lead to better treatment of invasive cancers.

Cancer is a major cause of death in the Western world. Whilst it is often possible to eradicate a primary tumour, once tumours spread from the original tumour to other parts of the body, they are often resistant to drugs that were effective on the primary tumour and radiotherapy is of limited value in disseminated disease.

One of the differences between cells that can spread (metastatic) and non-metastatic cancer cells lies in their altered motility, which depends on changes in the skeleton of the cell (cytoskeleton).

LIM kinase 1 (LIMK1) is a protein responsible for the changes of the cytoskeleton and is found in many metastatic cancers. LIMK2 is a family member of LIMK1 with similar effects on the cytoskeleton. To find out whether LIMK2 is also involved in cancer cell spread we are studying the levels of LIMK2 in different cancers.

We are introducing LIMK2 into non-metastatic cancer cells and testing their motility. We are also inhibiting LIMK2 in highly motile cells to test the contribution of LIMK2 to cell motility and metastasis. Understanding the how LIMK2 affects cell motility is of great importance for the developments of drugs that can inhibit the spread of cancer cells.

Funding Body

Cancer Council Research Grant


$93,500 per annum