The AKT family of enzymes (AKT1, 2 &3) is deregulated in the majority of human cancers, however the mechanisms by which the individual members contribute to cancer generation and progression are not fully understood. Indeed, each family member appears to be important in different types of cancer.
Our aim is to understand how each is activated and to discover the critical proteins they influence during tumour formation.
We have used activated forms of each AKT to show a major role of each is to stimulate different human cells to grow in size and that, in combination with other known cancer causing proteins, this signal causes the cells to divide faster, one hallmark of a cancer cell.
We are now studying what proteins are required for active AKT family members to allow cells to form cancers. Furthermore, we are using different methods of reducing AKT levels and inhibiting AKT activity to establish its importance in breast and ovarian cancer cells, cancer types where the AKT family is often unregulated.
Our long-term goal is to optimise the possibilities for inhibiting the action of these enzymes in the treatment of cancer.