Zorica Nakevska

Supervisor: YangXin Fu

Project: The role of an enzyme in epithelial ovarian cancer growth

“I now approach research with a newfound appreciation for its complexities.”

Around 3,900 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 1,900 women die of the disease each year in Canada, making it the leading cause of death related to gynecologic cancers. Most epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) patients are diagnosed at late stages and there are currently no effective treatments for advanced EOC, so it is crucial to develop new treatment strategies. 

Research in Yangxin Fu's lab has been focused on the role of an enzyme called NSUN2 in EOC. NSUN2 modifies RNA molecules, controlling how they work inside cells. We have found that reducing the activity of NSUN2 leads to decreased cell growth and survival of cancer cells, and also alters the mRNA levels of hundreds of genes in these cells. This indicates that normal NSUN2 activity promotes the growth of tumours. The molecular mechanisms underlying this function of NSUN2 remain to be determined. 

We hypothesize that NSUN2’s role in promoting cancer growth depends on its enzyme activity of modifying RNAs. To test this hypothesis, we will test normal NSUN2 and inactive NSUN2, which have lost the ability to modify RNAs, in EOC cells and compare their effect on cancer cell growth and survival. We will use a variety of cellular and molecular techniques and methods to measure different aspects of NSUN2's effects on cell behaviours. We expect that normal NSUN2, but not inactive NSUN2, will increase cell growth and survival in EOC cells. 

Results from this project will determine whether inhibiting the enzyme activity of NSUN2 will stop it from promoting cancer growth and if this could be a promising way to treat EOC. The ultimate goal of our research is to develop new and more effective treatments for EOC to improve the survival and quality of life of patients.

Zorica Nakevska was supervised by YangXin Fu and her summer studentship was funded by the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation. She is enrolled in the Bachelor of Science Honors in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology program.