The protein NRF2 is a transcription factor, which means that its role is to regulate expression of specific genes within a cell. Among other functions, NRF2 has been shown to be involved in metabolic pathways in the cell, in which nutrients are broken down to provide energy for cellular functions. NRF2 stimulates the breakdown of sugar into molecules called amino acids (serine and glycine), which are building blocks for proteins.
Led by Gina M. DeNicola, Ph.D., this project focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of the biology of NRF2 activity in pancreatic cancer cells. Dr. DeNicola’s previous work showed that NRF2 is activated by mutant K-RAS in pancreatic cancer cells. She is now trying to determine whether protein components or by-products of the pathway could be useful as biomarkers of disease, and/or whether the metabolic process driven by NRF2 could be inhibited as a strategy to block pancreatic cancer growth. Overall, these studies could improve the understanding, detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.