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Voice from the Lab: Dr. Nina Moderau

I am a Research Associate in the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College. I’m responsible for a small team including very talented Research Technician Sandesh Meyler and PhD student Michael Toeller who has joined us recently. Together, we are tackling the issue of the variety of cells within tumours (heterogeneity) and the influence of this on how cancer progresses and spreads.

The idea for the model of tumour heterogeneity that we are developing was actually inspired by my PhD studies analysing fruit flies!

What are you currently working on?

Currently, my team and I are working to analyse the impact of the many ways in which different cells can vary from each other within a tumour (heterogeneity) on cancer cell competition, survival and progression. For example, it is because of heterogeneity that it is so hard to predict where cancer will reappear in the body, and why it has often developed resistance to treatment by that time. We are researching breast cancer, but I believe the work we are doing will be applicable to many types of cancer once developed.

We are creating a multi-gene 3D breast cancer model that will predict the growth of multiple clones at the same time and their interaction with each other. Ultimately, this will tell us which genes are co-operating with each other to promote cancer growth and spread. We have recently made a big step forward with this. Read more here.

What motivates you?

I get my motivation from different sources: obviously scientific curiosity and the urge to help people are two of the biggest motivations. The opportunity to discover something that will eventually save lives down the line is a great inspiration.

Additionally, when I have the opportunity to meet cancer patients or their families and friends, it always gives a boost of energy and strength to work even harder to be able to help sooner. This motivates especially when we face delays or difficulties.

There is unfortunately also, as so often, a case in the family that does provide personal motivation to study this terrible disease and to battle it with all the means necessary.

Read more Voices from the Lab here: Dr. Silvia Ottaviani, Rosemary Lane, Neha Tabassum, Dr. Philip Lawton and Dr. Niklas Feldhahn.

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