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Summer Studentship 2021: using data to drive colon cancer research

Using Data to Understand How Mutations Drive Colon Cancer

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.

Oncology is another 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.

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 which 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.

Summer Studentship Programme

Colon cancer is one of the leading cancer types worldwide with only 53% of diagnosed 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 differences shown due to these genetic differences.

Lisa elaborates: “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.”

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

Lisa van den Driest is currently studying for a BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology and Microbiology at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. She has a strong interest in bioinformatics and is hoping to gain extra experience through her Summer Studentship that will help her progress to pursuing a PhD in the future. Bioinformatics is a mix of biology, computer science, information engineering, mathematics, and statistics, and uses software and other tools to help store, analyse and understand complex biological data.

Lisa’s research was published in August 2022 in the journal BMC Cancer.

Summer Studentship Funding 2021 Summer Studentship Projects

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