£53,633 in spring 2009 to the Institute of Food Research for a project to study the anti-cancer properties of carbohydrates derived from fruit and vegetables.
The surface of every cell contains complex branched carbohydrates. These carbohydrates interact with receptor molecules to influence whether a cell divides, stays in one place or migrates to another part of the body.
When a cell becomes cancerous biological structures which are normally masked in healthy tissue become available, resulting in abnormal cell responses.
This project focuses on two such structures, a carbohydrate called the TF antigen and a receptor called galectin-3, which are overproduced in many cancer cells and accelerate cancer invasion. The aim is to determine whether dietary carbohydrates derived from fruit and vegetable pectins can inhibit this interaction by competing for the same receptor, thus slowing down progression of some cancers. Natural carbohydrates have the advantage of being non toxic therapies plus the long term potential of protection in the diet.