KCNH channels in cancer

Ion channels are assemblies of membrane proteins that have evolved to conduct ions, creating electrical signals. We study potassium not only the ion channels that control action potentials in the heart and prevent cardiac arrhythmias, but also related channels that control communication in the brain. Surprisingly, both types of ion channels are also important in cancer proliferation and invasiveness. In a recent study in collaboration with Dr. John Kuo of the UW SMPH Department of Neurosurgery, MSTP student Kelli Pointer found that high levels of hERG expression are associated with greater invasiveness and proliferation of glioblastoma in patients. Moreover, she discovered that drugs taken primarily for anti-seizure purposes, that also happened to be hERG channel blockers, enhanced survival, but only among those with high hERG-expressing tumors. For a commentary on this work, see this link: http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/23/1/3?iss=1