Fall 2013 : Understanding epigenetics to develop new therapies
Expanding the search
BY Hilary Graham
Mark Bedford, Ph.D., professor in Molecular Carcinogenesis, works to identify novel epigenetic interactions and their role in disease.
Mark Bedford, Ph.D.
Bedford has developed a technology that immobilizes more than 300 different epigenetic domains on a glass slide. These can be used to identify proteins that interact with the domains, as well as small molecules that may serve to inhibit them. He established the Protein Domain Microarrays Core to provide this technology to other researchers. Using this technology, researchers can identify the molecular interactions of many types of epigenetic readers, which include a variety of epigenetic domains.
Bedford’s research program focuses specifically on arginine methylation, one type of epigenetic modification, and the family of enzymes that add this mark — protein arginine methyltransferases. Only recently has this family of enzymes been definitively linked to cancer. Interestingly, they do not appear to be mutated in cancer; instead, an overproduction of these enzymes is often observed in cancer cells. By understanding their cellular roles, Bedford anticipates that new avenues for drug development will become available.
Patients in cancer treatment often have other health issues that can
affect treatment and/or quality of life. Over the past 25 years, MD
Anderson has added myriad services to handle these conditions while
providing quality care for patients.
In 1889, Stephen Paget, an English surgeon and pathologist, hypothesized
that metastasis (the spread of cancer) did not occur randomly. It took
nearly a century before Isaiah Fidler came along to prove him right.
Some might call it fate. Three scientists who started their careers in
different parts of the world and come from different scientific
disciplines now work together at MD Anderson to develop new treatments