The New Frontier in Breast Cancer Research
We caught up with Lewis Quayle ahead of his honorary appointment as visiting scientist at the Garavan Institute in Sydney, a trip which has been made possible, in part, by funding from Weston Park Cancer Charity.
What do you hope to achieve?
In brief, the purpose of the project I will undertake during my visit is to analyses two large data sets, which I have generated as part of my Weston Park Cancer Charity-funded project: “Characterisation and therapeutic targeting of dormant tumour cells in breast cancer”.
The analysis’ that I will undertake requires me to train in specialist bioinformatic computational skills, under two internationally recognised experts in this field, Dr Warren Kaplan and Dr Nenad Bartonicek. Once trained, I will use these skills to analyse my data, with the purpose of identifying the genes and signalling pathways that maintain a small sub-set of breast cancer cells in a state of dormancy that confers an inherent ability to survive chemotherapy and cause cancer to return many years after initial treatment.
Using this information, I can then return to Sheffield and begin studying the genes/pathways that I identify to determine if they could allow us to eliminate the dormant tumour cell population that is ultimately responsible for cancer returning.
What does this mean for your research in Sheffield?
The implications for my research are multiple. Firstly, and most importantly, it will allow me to achieve what we set out to achieve when we embarked on my current project funded by Weston Park Cancer Charity; that is to identify potential new therapeutic targets aimed at removing the sub-population of cancer cells responsible for tumour recurrence.
Secondly, the skills and knowledge I will acquire will enable me to develop a number of future research projects both for myself and for the Holen Lab, and will also build a fruitful international collaboration that will bring together two groups of internationally recognised researchers in their respective fields.
In a broader sense, in gaining a degree of expertise in the skills in which I will train, I will be well equipped to disseminate this knowledge to other researchers within my lab and faculty, thereby supporting my colleagues to move their own projects forward through providing training and assistance.
Finally, my ultimate career ambition is to obtain a post-doctoral research fellowship and establish my own area of research expertise, and I believe that the skills obtained during this project will significantly enhance the likelihood of me obtaining a post-doctoral research fellowship. The project will also provide me with a large body of data that will be incorporated into an application for such a fellowship in the immediate future.
Is there anything you would like to say to supporters of Weston Park Cancer Charity who have fundraised in support of projects like yours?
I would firstly like to extend my absolute gratitude to Weston Park Cancer Charity and all of those who facilitate the Charity in supporting projects such as this, and for making what I am convinced will be a nexus in my research career possible.
I would also like to reiterate the importance of projects such as this, and the role that Weston Park Cancer Charity and its support play. Many of the fundraisers, I am sure, are aware of the problem that we are working to solve; a significant number of patients in the Weston Park Cancer Centre catchment area are diagnosed with bone metastasis every year. This project, although relatively small at first glance, is the culmination of a programme of work that Weston Park Cancer Centre has been supporting in our lab for a number of years.
I would stress that this is a highly specialised area of research, where Weston Park Cancer Charity’s support has allowed us to build considerable expertise and technology, including a working model to study metastatic dormancy (recently published in the international journal Clinical and Experimental Metastasis: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30377878), which is one of only a limited number of such models world-wide.
This project will further increase our capabilities in this area; an area in which Sheffield (and the Holen/Ottewell labs in particular) is already internationally recognised for having both clinical and pre-clinical research expertise.
Supporting this project, Weston Park Cancer Charity and all of those who have fundraised to support projects such as this, will ultimately have allowed us to generate new knowledge that could benefit patients for whom there currently is no cure.