Unlocking the key to understanding cell death
Elizabeth Lieschke hopes to influence the future treatment of lymphoma through her research project, Investigating the contributions of cell cycle arrest, cell senescence and cell death in p53 mediated tumour suppression.
Elizabeth was awarded a PhD scholarship from the Leukaemia Foundation and the Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand (HSANZ) in 2019 and is investigating how mutations in a tumour suppressor protein, known as p53, contribute to the development of lymphoma.
“I hope my research will influence cancer treatment in years to come and contribute to improving the lives of cancer patients. That would be the biggest reward,” said Elizabeth.
Her work is based around understanding how the tumour suppressor protein, p53, functions to stop the growth of cancer cells and her findings could influence how leukaemias and lymphomas are treated in the future.
Scientists have studied p53 for decades, but our understanding of this very important protein is still incomplete. What is known is that p53 has a very important role; it prevents or suppresses the capacity of cells to become cancerous, which is why it is called a tumour suppressor protein. Mutations in p53 have been frequently observed in blood cancers and other cancers. These mutations in p53 prevent it from doing its normal tumour suppressor function and are thought to play an important role in the development and growth of lymphomas.
“We know that once p53 is activated, a cell can follow a number of different paths. The cell can either die or pause its growth and go into a sleep-like state. We want to understand what causes some cells to die while others stay alive but stop growing,” said Elizabeth.
“To study this, we are using a number of models of normal cells and blood cancers, to examine what happens to them after p53 is activated. We will then look for other changes in the cells that could explain why some die and others stay alive.”
Elizabeth, whose parents both work in medical research, has already assisted in developing insights into lymphoma by contributing to several ongoing projects in the laboratory. Her PhD research project is the next step in her scientific career.
“So far, it has been a lot of tool validation and setting up long-term experiments,” said Elizabeth.
“We look forward to sharing some results soon, but it’s much too early at this stage.”
“I’d love to say a big thank you to the Leukaemia Foundation and Bridgestone Australia for making this funding possible.
“It is wonderful that these scholarships are available to support the next generation of scientists. I feel honoured to be awarded this scholarship and look forward to sharing the research findings it has funded.”