Meet the Scientists: PCRC Lab Tour

In March, our scientists at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in Central London opened up their labs to some of our wonderful fundraisers and supporters. These are the people who make our research possible, and the tour gave them an opportunity to learn more about where their money is going.

The evening kicked off with some lovely words from one of our fundraisers, Joel, who was due to run his second marathon for PCRC in April. Joel supports PCRC in memory of his grandfather, a World War II veteran, avid Watford FC fan and Joel’s hero. Joel’s grandfather found out he had advanced prostate cancer in 1995. There was no cure then and there is still no cure now. The experience highlighted the need for members of Joel’s family to arrange regular check-ups. As a result of these checks, Joel’s uncle Martin had his prostate cancer identified early enough for him to receive effective treatment. As Joel said at the end of his speech, ‘prostate cancer affects all of us in one way or another’.

Following the speeches, everyone was divided into three groups to meet three of our lead scientists in turn: Dr Aamir Ahmed, Dr Magali Williamson and Dr Christine Galustian.

Dr Magali Williamson explained the difference between DNA in normal healthy cells and in prostate cancer cells, and how production of the protein PlexinB1 is higher in prostate cancer tumours. Dr Williamson is trying to stop prostate cancer spreading to other organs by blocking PlexinB1. Then, she allowed one lucky member of the tour to help her extract DNA from cells in a test tube. The experiment involved adding salt and ethanol to the test tube, shaking it up and pulling out DNA on a plastic loop. Easy as that!

Dr Aamir Ahmed and his PhD student Marta showed fascinating videos of prostate cancer cells dividing over a few days and explained how certain drugs, already in use, can slow down or potentially stop the process.

Dr Christine Galustian and her team spoke about their innovative and exciting immunotherapy treatment. Dr Galustian is working with IL-15, a naturally occurring protein. By modifying this protein slightly and injecting specially ‘tailed’ IL-15 directly into the tumour, she has dramatically reduced tumour sizes in the lab. The next stage of her research will be clinical trials, which should take place by the end of 2019.

In February, we held a Valentine’s Day Fundraising Competition for our London Marathon runners. At the end of the lab tour, our events staff rewarded the two amazing winners. Sophie began Valentine’s Day week with a fundraising total of £1,280, and ended with an amazing total of £7,362, raising £6,082 in one week. Sophie achieved this by getting her workplace involved, and 170 company branches across the country took part in fundraising events for PCRC, whether that was bake sales or dress-down days. Manvir started the week with £3,010 and ended it with £3,680. He had the most support over that week, with 15 individual donations to his fundraising page enabling him to raise £670 in just seven days. Manvir has now raised £4,348 so far for PCRC. Congratulations to both for winning the competition and thank you for all your hard work!

The tour allowed some of our fundraisers to see the science up-close, to meet our researchers and ask questions, and, ultimately, to understand what is being funded by their efforts. In her introductory speech at the start of the evening, PCRC Research and Communications Manager Dr Naomi Elster reminded our fundraisers that the results and successes from PCRC research projects belong to them, too, as without our supporters our projects would not be possible.


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