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Summer Studentships 2021 Lisa van den Driest

Researcher: Lisa van den Driest

Location: University of Strathclyde

2021 FRAME Summer Studentship winner Lisa van den Driest, studying at the University of Strathclyde, was awarded £2,500 for her project using data to help identify mutations linked to colon cancer.

The problem

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. Every year, more studies are carried out and more data collected, that can provide a wealth of information about factors contributing to the cause of a disease, help evaluate current treatments or identify potential new diagnostic lines of enquiry. Our next successful project aims to do just this.

The project

In Lisa van den Driest’s project: ‘Development of a gene expression bioinformatics pipeline to identify driver mutations of colorectal cancer,’ Lisa hopes 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 project is to identify mutations occurring in patients with colorectal cancer and establish how they contribute to patient outcomes. This information may help inform understanding of colon cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

colorectal cancer figure
The potential

Colon cancer is one of the leading cancer types worldwide with only 53% of patients surviving for 10 years or more after a colon cancer diagnosis. As more people are diagnosed and treated, more tumour samples are tested from biopsies and more information is collated about cancer patients, their genes and the corresponding outcomes due to these genetic differences.

“In recent years, with significant advancements in gene sequencing technologies and the increasing numbers of biobanks from patient tumour biopsies, there has been a significant rise in the amount of clinical information available within the public domain. These datasets provide a significant wealth of information for researchers to examine patterns of gene expression and their role in disease. A key advantage of using these datasets is replacing the need for animal testing and refining their use in studying patterns of disease. If we can use information contained in patient samples, this will reduce the need for exploratory studies in animals which may ultimately prove to not translate to humans.”

Lisa van den Driest

Download the full report: Development of an accessible gene expression bioinformatics pipeline to study driver mutations of colorectal cancer

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