Summer Student Olivia Knowles
Supervised by Dr Adrian Biddle at Queen Mary University London, Olivia Knowles is identifying a novel cancer stem cell sub-population in melanoma (skin cancer) samples using a new protocol, to help replace the use of mice.
Melanoma is a very dangerous form of skin cancer due to its ability to spread quickly to other organs; often it has spread before it is even diagnosed. Cancer stem cells drive tumour growth by replicating indefinitely to form new tumour cells. Research carried out using human skin cancer cells growing in a dish has found that a certain type of these cancer stem cells is particularly aggressive and resistant to drugs.
In her summer project, Olivia examined as many human tumours as possible to identify whether this type of cancer stem cell was present in skin cancer tumours taken directly from patients. This enabled her to establish the clinical importance of these type of cells and helped to validate the animal replacement technique used to identify them. Her work provides additional evidence that designing drugs to target this new sub-population of cells could prevent the rapid regrowth of tumours seen after using current treatments.
This summer research project has enabled me to continue with research that I am passionate about. I am very proud to be working on an animal free project, not only as an animal lover but because research on human tissue is crucial for medical progression.