The Precision Oncology Research Unit (PORU) is an SAMRC extramural unit, based at the University of Pretoria, which seeks to map the landscape of cervical and oesophageal cancer in order to understand the underlying causes of these cancers and to discover targets for the development of novel and more effective targeted therapeutics.
Key focus areas
- Identify and comprehensively characterise the potential common and country-specific risk factors underlying high cervical and oesophageal cancer incidences and mortality rates in South Africa, Tanzania and BRICS countries.
- Define the RNA and splicing landscape of cervical and oesophageal cancers to determine whether splicing and expression alterations differ between and among populations from Low-Middle Income Countries (LMICs) and developed countries by comparing patient samples from South Africa with sequencing data from the US and UK. We will also investigate the effect of licenced drugs, natural products and novel synthetic compounds on these perturbations on cancer cell lines using RNA-sequencing.
- Investigate the therapeutic potential of micro-RNAs and their mRNA and pathway targets in HIV-associated cervical and oesophageal cancer. Regulation of these potential biomarkers could be altered by natural products derived from South African medicinal plants and these could be used for targeted therapy by affecting the entire molecular networks and biological pathways involved in cervical and oesophageal cancer.
- Conduct pre-clinical and clinical trials of natural products to investigate the anti-tumour and anti-metastasis efficacy using patient derived organoids (PDOs) or patient derived xenografts (PDXs) grown in mice. Grafts will be developed for cervical and oesophageal cancers. This will be a new way to study how well natural and synthetic compounds could be developed as new cancer drugs.
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