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In vitro example of alternatives to animal testing

Summer Studentships 2023 Bobbi Anderson

Researcher: Bobbi Anderson

Location: University of Strathclyde

2023 Summer Studentship winner Bobbi Anderson is a biomedical science student at the University of Strathclyde. Bobbi was awarded £2,800 for her research to understand how patterns of genetic mutations in breast cancer determine the way it will respond to chemotherapy. Her project will be supervised by Dr Zahra Rattray at the University of Strathclyde.  

The problem

Breast cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths with >2 million diagnoses worldwide each year. While many new medicines are successful in treating it, a significant number of patients do not respond well, and this is often due to different genetic mutations within their tumours. 

The project

Bobbi is focusing on how alterations in genes associated with DNA damage repair affect how the tumour cells respond to chemotherapy drugs, disease severity and recurrence and patient survival. 

DNA damage repair genes can lose their function in cancer, so she will look at how these alterations impacts the tumour cells’ response to chemotherapies. Bobbi’s project fuses genetic and metabolic data from cell lines with clinical data acquired from patients, to shed light on the molecular basis for the patient’s response to chemotherapy. 

Breast cancer
The potential

By collecting the data on the ‘molecular fingerprint’ of breast cancer cells in this way, and combining them with publicly available real-world patient data, there is potential to create a database for use by researchers to understand the specific mutations and metabolite profiles that underpin breast cancer growth and development.  

Bobbi hopes to develop a new approach that increases the use of patient data and reduces the use of animals during early discovery stages of breast cancer research. Data generated from this studentship will highlight the need to study more than one gene mutation at a time, and will be used to plan future experimental studies, to ultimately develop new diagnostics and treatments for patients with breast cancer in the future.  

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