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Let's beat cancer sooner

Our new researchers with some of our funding team

It’s that time of year again – a time to welcome some new researchers to Cancer Research UK. This group of talented scientists impressed our funding committees with their pioneering ideas, talent and commitment to helping us beat cancer sooner.

The new Fellows – as they’re called – are still on the early rungs of their career ladder, and we’re very pleased to be helping them on their way.

If we’re to carry on making progress against cancer, we need this bright new generation of researchers to spark new ways of thinking, and do the research that will take us nearer to finding cures for all types of the disease.

Here’s a brief introduction to our new researchers, and we look forward to hearing about their exciting work in the future.

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  • Dr Paul Huang from the ICR in London is focusing on how lung cancer cells ‘rewire’ their internal communications system to become resistant to treatment.
  • Dr Trevor Graham, based at Barts Cancer Institute in London, is looking for genetic changes that allow bowel cancer to become resistant to therapy. Using computers to map these changes, his goal is being able to predict how cancer cells will adapt to treatment, to see if better combinations of drugs could stop cancer coming back.
  • At UCL in London, Dr Sophie Acton is studying cells surrounding tumours that could be shielding them from the immune system. Understanding how neighbouring cells ‘talk to’ immune cells could provide an opportunity to remove these barriers and help immune cells attack tumours.
  • Dr Ross Chapman, based in Oxford, is investigating one of the most-well known genes in cancer – p53. Mistakes in p53 play a key role in cancer development, but Dr Chapman is investigating some of the molecules that p53 talks to, to find out whether faults in these molecules can also drive cancer.
  • Up at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow, Dr Oliver Maddocks is studying how cancer cells turn nutrients into the energy and building blocks they need to grow. Limiting the amount of certain nutrients might help slow the growth of tumours or make them more susceptible to particular drugs.
  • Dr Kevin Myant in Edinburgh is investigating a faulty molecule, called RAC1, in bowel cancer. He thinks a faulty version made by bowel cancer cells is too active. The research could lead to new treatments that block this faulty molecule.
  • Dr Geoff Higgins, based at Oxford, is researching ways to make cancer cells more sensitive to radiotherapy, potentially boosting how effective this treatment is.
  • In London, Dr Michelle Lockley is working with viruses that have been genetically engineered to destroy cancer cells. She is looking at whether combining these viruses with various cancer drugs makes them more effective.
  • Dr Matthew Hoare in Cambridge is studying the way faulty cells often ‘go to sleep’ as one of our body’s defence mechanisms against cancer. His team is finding out whether these ‘sleeping’ cells could be an early warning sign that cancer might develop, and could help doctors identify people at higher risk.
  • And in Glasgow, Dr Imran Ahmad is a surgeon specialising in prostate cancer. He’s carrying out lab research to investigate genetic changes that happen in prostate cells as the disease becomes more advanced and becomes resistant to treatment.
  • Women at high risk of breast cancer can be offered hormone therapies to lower their risk. In London, Dr Sam Smith is investigating why some of these women choose to stop taking hormone therapy.
  • Dr Alice Forster in London is finding out why girls from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are less likely to have the HPV vaccine. She will use this information to develop tailored information for these groups, with the goal of increasing the number who have the vaccine, and so reducing their risk of cervical cancer.
  • Past studies looking at the levels of different fats in peoples’ diets, and the role they play in cancer, have not produced any clear answers, so in Bristol Dr Philip Haycock, is tackling this question by looking for genetic variations linked to varying levels of saturated fat in peoples’ blood.
  • In Belfast, Dr Úna McMenamin is investigating why men at are much higher risk of stomach and oesophageal cancers than women, with a focus on whether hormones (like oestrogen) play a role in lowering risk.
  • Smoking remains the most important preventable cause of cancer in the UK, and a third of smokers have mental health problems.  So Dr Leonie Brose is carrying out research in London, into the best ways to help people with mental health problems quit smoking.

Emma