Cholinergic signals, endogenously by acetylcholine and exogenously by nicotine, act on nicotinic acetylcholine (nAChRs) receptors and may modulate cellular activity, proliferation and death. Although neuronal cholinergic signaling is well studied epithelial cholinergic signals and their role in cancer biology remain relatively unexplored. Understanding how sythesis and metabolism of acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that degrades acetycholine, as well as presence/absence of nAChRs affect the cancer cell signaling can provide novel leads in cancer research and therapy.
Herein Dr. Konu will present results obtained through in silico, in vitro and in vivo approaches on the role of cholinergic signals in cancer progression. Her group recently established a significant proliferative and prognostic role for CHRNA5, the alpha 5 subunit of the pentameric nAChRs, in breast cancer. Moreover, they have developed zebrafish xenograft models to test effects of microenvironment and novel drugs against liver cancer cells.