17 / 05 / 2022
FRAME Summer Studentship winners have research published
We are proud to announce that two winners of the FRAME Summer Studentship Programme 2021 have been named as authors on two published papers which include research conducted in their Studentship research project.
The FRAME Summer Studentship Programme is an annual initiative that offers grants to undergraduate students to allow them to carry out a summer research project. The students work within their university under the guidance of a supervisor and at the end of the project, produce a scientific report to summarise their findings.
The purpose of the Studentships is not only to fund research, but also to provide motivated undergraduates with opportunities to gain valuable practical and communication skills, encourage engagement with the 3Rs, and prioritise non-animal research approaches. The projects are judged not only on their potential to impact the reduction or replacement of laboratory animals, but also on the quality of the application, and possibility of further research that advances human relevant approaches. It can be rare for undergraduate students to have the unique opportunity to support funded research projects so early on in their careers. The fact that students are being named in published papers following their research work is an incredible achievement, and we are proud to support them in these endeavours.
Sally Prior, whose 2021 Studentship focused on software to help assess the effect of drugs on brain tumours supervised by Dr Anke Brüning-Richardson at the University of Huddersfield, has been named as an author on a paper in the international journal, Biomedicines, titled ‘Drug Resistance in Glioma Cells Induced by a Mesenchymal-Amoeboid Migratory Switch.’
Fellow Studentship winner Lisa van den Driest conducted her Studentship research on using data to understand how mutations drive colon cancer, in a project supervised by Dr Zahra Rattray and Dr Nicholas Rattray at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Lisa has been successful in having her paper, titled ‘Development of an accessible gene expression bioinformatics pipeline to study driver mutations of colorectal cancer’ accepted by ATLA (Alternatives to Laboratory Animals) – FRAME’s scientific journal published in partnership with SAGE.
Human-relevant tools to evaluate cancer drugs
Sally’s studentship focused on addressing the need for more human-relevant tools to help evaluate drugs in the treatment of cancer. Such tools have the potential to provide greater insight into cancer biology than animal-based methods of research. This project looked at treatments for a particular cancer that is highly invasive and is the most common form of brain tumour in children and adults.
The study established a 3D cancer model that was used alongside both animal and non-animal derived matrices (extracellular material that supports cells to move) to allow direct comparison of results. Spheroids were produced from cancer cell lines to allow the production of clinically relevant data, as 3D spheroids accurately mimic tumours of patients.
The research identified that the combination of the newly developed ‘Cloudbuster’ imaging software with 3D in vitro cancer models and non-animal derived products has great potential to support the replacement of in vivo animal models in cancer research.
Sally’s research was included in the paper published in Biomedicines, an international, scientific, peer-reviewed journal on biomedicines that is published monthly.
“Undertaking a FRAME Summer Studentship has provided me with excellent opportunities,” Sally explained, “including the chance to explore alternative, animal-free research and contribute to a recent publication, whilst also allowing me to develop as a scientist. This experience has been instrumental in confirming my desire to carry out a PhD in cancer research.”
Sally’s project supervisor Dr Anke Brüning-Richardson added: “We’re very grateful to FRAME for equipping Sally with the funds to undertake a Summer Studentship that enabled her to acquire the skills to contribute to this work, and to support her aspirations to become a researcher.”
Using human data to investigate the role of genes in the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer
Lisa’s Studentship aimed to understand the key mutations driving colon cancer and any links they have to disease prognosis using existing clinical data from online, freely available databases. The ultimate aim of this study was to identify the key driver mutations occurring in patients with colorectal cancer and establish how they can contribute to patient outcomes.
Oncology is a research area that still relies heavily on animal use. Replacing or reducing animal use in an area of research can be achieved not only through the development of new culture methods using human tissue, but also using data obtained directly from patients.
In the study, Lisa reported analysis of APC, BRAF and KRAS mutations, expression profiles and prognostic roles as actionable genes in colorectal cancer. Detailed analysis of genomic alterations in colorectal cancer can provide novel insights into disease progression, supporting the development of novel drug treatment combinations that will ultimately improve patient outcomes. Findings from this study demonstrate the importance of accessibility to clinical datasets and a pipeline for investigating the role of genes in the diagnosis and therapy of colorectal cancer.
Lisa’s paper is due to be published in the 50(3) Biobanking Special Issue of ATLA, FRAME’s peer-reviewed journal which covers all aspects of the development, validation, implementation and use of alternatives to laboratory animals in biomedical research and toxicity testing.
Commenting on her Studentship experience, Lisa said: “The FRAME Summer Studentship not only provided me with essential research skills, but also a priceless experience in a warm and friendly lab environment. This has helped to reinforce my passion for science and my goal to pursue a PhD.”
Lisa’s project supervisor Dr Zahra Rattray added: “We are delighted and thankful to FRAME for funding Lisa’s summer internship in our research team. This project has given Lisa a great opportunity to apply her bioinformatics knowledge to a research area new to her. This internship has been instrumental in Lisa’s research experience and her future as a PhD candidate in cancer bioinformatics.”
We will share a link to Lisa’s paper when it publishes – look out for updates on FRAME’s Twitter!
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