Summer Student 2021: Rosie Davis
Breaking down barriers to improve bowel cancer treatments.
Supervisor name and institution: Dr Nick Peake, Sheffield Hallam University
Bowel cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in the world, and the 2nd most common cause of cancer-related deaths. When diagnosed and treated early, the disease is easily treatable by surgery and chemotherapy. However, half of all patients are diagnosed with advanced disease which has a very poor prognosis – if the disease has spread from the bowel, less than 10% of patients survive for 5 years. Even when treatment is apparently successful, disease returns in up to 50% of patients, so there is an urgent need to develop better treatments for advanced disease.
Cancer research dedicated to developing new treatments is heavily dependent on animals, particularly mice. This is because cancer is a very complex disease, with cancer cells invading into tissue causing a defensive response – the tissue becomes very dense, stiff and fibrous. Cancer has been described as a “wound that never heals”. Considerable efforts have been dedicated to developing models mimicking cancer in the laboratory, however there are few that reproduce this wound-like response, so researchers frequently resort to using mice.
To address these challenges, the team at Sheffield Hallam University have been using an approach combining cancer cells and normal cells in a gel to mimic interactions in the 3D cancer environment. Using these models, we can see tissue becoming more fibrous and stiff where cancers invade. This is important, because stiff, dense tissue appears to restrict drug access to the cancer cells, and we believe that this has serious implications for bowel cancer patients – enabling cancer cells to “hide” from current treatments.
Rosie’s project will develop better human relevant models of this dense tissue “barrier”. Rosie will use human tissue-derived material, which contains the molecules that form these fibrous regions, and importantly she will engineer it so that they become as dense and stiff as the tissue seen in advanced-stage bowel cancer.
The aim of the project is to provide a tool to allow scientists to study how drugs are absorbed into dense cancer tissue without needing to use mice.
Animals project will replace: Mice, rats and rabbits.
Get to know Rosie…
Why do you want to participate in animal replacement summer studentship?
Over the past 2 years, I have developed a passion for laboratory research, and I am keen to utilise the skills I have obtained to improve animal welfare and work to reduce unnecessary exploitation in research environments.
Consciously working to reduce my role in animal cruelty, both through my diet as a vegetarian and the products I purchase, is integral to my personal values. To be able to work alongside researchers with a shared interest in human relevant cancer research, whilst simultaneously working to replace the use of animals in research, is an unmissable opportunity.
How will the Summer Student Programme help to kick-start your career as an animal free researcher?
During my second year, I was introduced to animal free research whilst completing a laboratory project on prostate cancer. I am keen to build on my experience, raise awareness and promote animal free research in both teaching and research labs in the future to help to end the use of animals in research.
What are your future plans and career aspirations?
As a graduate, I have aspirations to carry out a PhD in order to kickstart a career in research, specifically oncology related. As cancer research heavily relies on the use of animals, this studentship would be incredibly helpful in terms of equipping me with the knowledge and transferable skills to take forward an animal-free approach into my future research career.
You can take action for animals, by uniting with us now!
Many human relevant approaches have been introduced into the scientific world, but unfortunately, the use of animals in medical research is entrenched and institutionalised, with many researchers still viewing animal experiments as the gold standard. This is our time to make change happen. Our work is funded entirely by your generous support, so please make a donation today to help us free animals from laboratories for good.
Page last modified on July 7, 2021 8:31 am