Wasim Khan is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He talked to us about the inspiration behind his ground-breaking work in liver cancer.
Liver cancer is one of the leading contributors to cancer malignancies. My work focuses on a novel protein, hexokinase domain containing 1 (HKDC1), and its involvement in the onset and progression of this disease. Due to the dramatic changes in its expression, in liver cancer, this novel protein has massive potential to be used as an early diagnostic tool and to create novel targeted therapies.
The HKDC1 protein plays a critical role in liver cancer progression. It interacts with the mitochondria and then regulates metabolism, proliferation and the survival of liver cancer. HKDC1s are highly upregulated in liver cancer, potentially making them a valuable early diagnostic tool. Added to this, the newly discovered importance of these proteins also means that we could develop small molecule and peptide-based inhibitors to target HKDC1, specifically its mitochondrial interaction in liver cancer.
To me, all cancer patients are inspiring. My life has been closely touched by cancer, as my grandmother, uncle and aunt have all died from it. Like them, all patients have a story that embodies courage and bravery. The emotions they experience when they recognize the disease throughout their body and know they have limited time left are indescribable. All cancer patients, survivors or not, fight to their last breath with this disease.
Q: What kind of mindset do you need to achieve your Next Great Impossible?
A: I am a firm believer that with hard work and dedication, you can achieve all your goals.
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