Hi, my name is Shreya, a Master's student at the University
of Manchester. My Master’s is in cancer research, an extremely topical and fast
paced field. After completing three years of medicine, I decided to take a year
out, known as 'intercalating', to explore research.
The knowledge of how innovative and pioneering the current
projects are, coupled with the fact that I had a previous interest in the
clinical side of cancer, solidified that this was the field for me. After this
year I’ll return to finishing my medical degree, now with the perspective of
working as a researcher. The invaluable skills I’ve learnt and will continue to
develop this year should only help me become a better doctor in the future.
My research is focused on colorectal cancer, one of the most
common cancers in the UK. The project I’m doing specifically involves patients
that have had advanced colorectal cancer, which has unfortunately spread to the
lining of the abdomen. This type of cancer is difficult to treat and involves intricate
surgery that lasts for around 8-10 hours. Patients after this surgery have
kindly donated their tumours in order for our team to analyse them. We are looking
at the DNA of the starting tumour and the DNA of the tumours that have spread,
in order for us to see how closely related the two tumours are. This project
has many elements to it and involves a large team, I’m working closely with surgeons,
pathologists and lab researchers who are using state of the art techniques and
facilities to get the most accurate results. My main role will be to analyse the
raw results, which should start to become available within the next month. At
the moment I am mainly delegating and in charge of organising, as there are
many people involved, it can often be difficult, but I’m enjoying the
communication aspect. Performing a DNA profile of the starting tumour (primary)
is common practice in hospitals, as it helps doctors come up with a treatment
plan tailored to the tumour type. A profile of the tumour that has spread
(secondary) is not routinely done, therefore the profile of the primary is also
used to treat the secondary. This project aims to see if there are any
differences in DNA between the two, and whether the secondary site should also
be analysed for establishing treatment plans. A lot of information can be
gained by looking at the DNA of tumours, and more information is needed to help
manage this advanced disease, which currently has a poor prognosis.
My project is a good mix of lab work and clinical; often
projects are one or the other. This means I get the opportunity to explore both
kinds of research. I am also exposed to many different environments, for
example, I have sat down with pathologists and looked at tumour samples under
the microscope, as well as having the opportunity to be in the genomics lab and
understand the process of DNA profiling. Being able to have these experiences
is one of the reasons why I took a year out of medicine. Despite having
previous reservations about doing a Master’s (mainly due to adding an extra
year to my already long 5 year degree!) I’m happy with the work I’m doing, and I
have been enjoying experiencing the world of research.
For more information on DNA and genes: https://www.genomicseducation.hee.nhs.uk/genetics101/what-is-dna/
I am based at the world-renowned Christie
Hospital which is pioneering in cancer research, for more information on the
research they do have a look at their website: https://www.christie.nhs.uk/professionals/research/
For general information about cancer, check out
the Cancer Research UK website: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMImcevrJDr3wIVCbDtCh2byAaqEAAYASAAEgII7vD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds#/
For more information about applying for medicine
at Manchester: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2019/01428/mbchb-medicine/
For information about the Masters in oncology
My name is Alex Trafford and I am a second year Epidemiology
PhD student in the Division of Pharmacy and Optometry. I have quite a diverse
academic background for somebody in my field, being unsure of which subjects I
enjoyed most at school and splitting my A-levels between the sciences and
humanities. I eventually decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in
geography, with two years at Lancaster University and one year abroad at the
University of North Carolina. In my final undergraduate year I took part in a
module looking at health geographies - during this time I came across the field
of epidemiology, which combined aspects of science and humanities, and decided
that this was the direction I wanted to go in. In order to learn more about the
field, I completed a master’s degree in Demography and Health at the London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2017.
In late 2017, I received funding from the Global Psoriasis
Atlas and started my PhD in Epidemiology at Manchester. My project here
involves using huge datasets to understand how having psoriasis might make
somebody more or less likely to get cancer.
Although epidemiology is not a field that is as well-known
as others, like maths or chemistry, its results are often very well publicised
and can shape how many people live their lives. The first epidemiological study
was conducted in London by John Snow (not the one from Game of Thrones), who
used a map of cases of ill health and interviews with local people to identify
a contaminated water pump that was spreading cholera. Since this first study,
epidemiology has been developed and used in a lot of different ways to improve
health – from proving that smoking can be extremely bad for your health to
recognising the role of mosquitos in the spread of yellow fever. Though more
traditional methods are still used to quantify disease and its distribution - for
example, in recent Ebola outbreaks - epidemiology has also evolved to use big
data and more complex techniques, such as machine learning.
In my research, I will be using big data to understand how
having psoriasis may influence the risk of developing cancer. Although
psoriasis presents as a condition of the skin, it involves chronic, systemic
inflammation and this has been linked to an increased risk of cancer in other
conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease. However, attributing an altered
risk of developing cancer to the inflammation involved in psoriasis is
challenging due to the presence of other lifestyle behaviours, such as smoking.
As it has been demonstrated that smoking is more common in people with
psoriasis, it is challenging to say whether people with psoriasis develop cancer
more often because of their psoriasis or because they are more likely to smoke
– this is a concept known as confounding in epidemiology.
To try to understand whether people with psoriasis do
develop cancer more, and whether it’s likely to be a result of their psoriasis
or other lifestyle behaviours, I am analysing health data recorded by GPs and
Hospitals in England. By following anonymous people with and without psoriasis
through their health records, it is possible to compare the number of cancer
diagnoses in each group. Having data for behaviours such as smoking then allows
me to understand how these factors might be influencing any risk.
Gaining an understanding of whether people with psoriasis do
develop cancer more, and what might be causing this, is vital for the current
care of people with psoriasis and may also guide important future immunological
research into the topic.
To learn more about John Snow’s first epidemiological study
To learn more about epidemiology –
To learn more about psoriasis –
Population health at the University of Manchester –
My name is Jason Chu, and I’m a
second year PhD student in Biomedical Imaging. For years, I debated what kind
of career I wanted to follow - police, architect, restauranteur. In the end, I
finished my Advanced Highers (the Scottish equivalent of A Levels) in 2012,
with a curiosity for science. I went on to study Immunology at the University
of Glasgow. This decision was heavily influenced by my fascination of TV and
film adaptations of zombie outbreaks, and how our body’s defence system would
fight against pathogens. As part of my Immunology degree, I did a placement
year in 2015 at GlaxoSmithKline where I took part in research to develop novel
In 2017, I started my PhD in
Biomedical Imaging at the University of Manchester. Here, I use 3D PET imaging
technology to understand how an immune cell called macrophages is involved
healthy and diabetic wound healing.
Diabetes is a growing problem
across the world. With massive modern lifestyle changes in recent decades (diet,
technology, work, and healthcare) it is expected to quadruple and affect over
340 million people by 2030. One of the associated complications is an impaired
ability to heal wounds. This can lead to chronic wounds, unresolved infections
and in worst case scenarios – lower limb amputations.
Poor treatment to this affliction
is partly due to a lack of mechanistic understanding. This is where the
scientists come in. It is believed that immune cells such as macrophages may
not be working normally in those that have diabetes and so prevent wounds from
healing as they should.
What do I investigate?
I want to understand how these
macrophages behave in healthy wound healing, and compare it with diabetic wound
healing. To do so, I am using established techniques and developing novel ways
to image these cells. The old-fashioned way is to take small tissue samples of
the wound, process it into wax, cut them into extremely thin slices and stain
it for macrophages – to see how many there are and where they are.
The novel technique I am
developing is to use PET imaging to visualise the macrophages in 3D and in
real-time. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is an imaging technique used to
observe biochemical processes inside the body. This requires a radioactive
tracer: an organic compound labelled with a radioactive element. The organic
compound is a jigsaw piece that fits nicely with your biological target (e.g.
macrophages), and the radioactive element is a beacon to make it easier to see.
A small and safe amount of this radioactive tracer is injected into the subject
and accumulates at biologically relevant sites of the body (e.g. macrophages).
When they do so, they release a pair of gamma rays. The PET scanner detects
these and reconstructs them into 3D images of where the radioactive tracer is
in the body.
This allows us as scientists to
gain a better understanding of where and how macrophages behave in the context
of wound healing. This new information and the imaging technology we develop is
a small and exciting puzzle piece in a bigger picture to help improve people’s
Find out more about diabetes and wound healing from these
websites - https://www.woundsource.com/blog/four-stages-wound-healing
Part of the reason I got involved in this project is because
of my interest in imaging and photography, and here are some examples of this
in the biological world - https://bscb.org/competitions-awardsgrants/image-competition/
To find out more about studying immunology in
Manchester - https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2019/10284/bsc-immunology/course-details/#course-profile