In today’s Australian news, the announcement that the government is to subsidise the breast cancer drug Herceptin, also known as Trastuzumab. The cost of the drug for some 2000 women in Australia comes to around AUD 50 000 – 70 000 a year; read one touching story.
The drug is a monoclonal antibody that binds to a protein known as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), also known as ERBB-2. This protein is a tyrosine kinase cell surface receptor – in cancerous cells it activates a cascade of protein kinases which promote cell division. Blocking the receptor switches off the signal for the cells to grow and divide.
I often struggle to explain to my non-scientist friends and family exactly what it is that I do all day. However, my current project involves the computational prediction of substrates for protein kinases. So now I can tell them that I really am finding cures for cancer.