Researching new cancer treatments

A London Met academic and graduate have embarked on a cross-collaborative research project that aims to find new therapies for cancer patients.

Date: 15 November 2017

An MSc Biomedical Sciences graduate and Dr Una Fairbrother, Head of Bioscience at London Metropolitan University, are working together on an important collaborative research project with other universities in London. The research is set to support the development of new cancer treatment.

Elliot Kidd, who started his research degree at London Met in September 2017, has joined forces with his former lecturer to conduct research into the molecular regulation of telomere length as part of his PhD project. Within the nucleus of cells, telomeres are the caps which protect the ends of chromosomes from wear and tear as an organism grows and repairs.

Elliot said: “Our research is looking to investigate the possible molecular mechanisms orchestrating the activity and regulation of telomere length, and we hope to potentially highlight pathways which may be useful targets for therapies in combatting cancer.”

Dr Fairbrother’s collaborators, Dr Jessica Buxton, from Kingston University, and Professor Alexandra Blakemore, from Imperial College and Brunel University, London, worked together to improve methods of measuring telomeres. The research moved to London Met after Dr Buxton and Dr Fairbrother worked together on her new cohort of DNA samples.

The new DNA cohort was collected when Dr Fairbrother worked with Dr Andrew Walley, a genetics expert at St George’s, University of London. They managed to collect a well characterised cohort samples from Columbian school children for the study. This collaboration was facilitated by former London Met academic, Dr Daniel Cohen.

Dr Fairbrother said: “I wanted to measure the telomeres of these children and I needed someone who could show initiative, pick up complex ideas and techniques quickly and behave professionally and reliably with collaborators in other universities. I proposed that Elliot do this as his Masters’ project. He did an excellent job and interesting results regarding the relationship between diet and telomere length have come from his Masters project.”

Elliot said: “Throughout my time with the University, I received exemplary support from the staff. My work is interdisciplinary and being able to draw on the knowledge and experience from London Met’s diverse roster of scientific professionals is, and has been, incredibly beneficial in aiding my own professional development.”

“Telomere dysfunction has been implicated in tumorigenesis - the formation of tumours - and in aiding cancer cell survivability. In fact, nearly 90% of human cancers express telomerase - a crucial enzyme involved in telomere maintenance, whose expression is normally reserved to stem cells and germ cells.”

Dr Fairbrother said: “Elliot is a bright student who perhaps lacked some the confidence that students who attend the elite universities have at an early age. He represents what we do best at London Met which is to nurture and develop real talent.”

Dr Fairbrother is the course leader for Biological Science BSc and Medical Bioscience BSc and Medical Genomics MSc.