PCR’s Trip to Aberdeen!

We’ve been busy travelling the country meeting all of our scientists. PCR Research Communications Intern Kath tells us all about her trip to Aberdeen to meet Professor Iain J McEwan and Dr Irene Hunter.

I joined PCR in October as the Research Communications Intern. My role involves communicating all of our exciting research projects via our website, social media and newsletter, as well as working on our Patient Voice project.

Since I started, I have been busy travelling around the UK to meet all of the scientists we started funding as a result of our 2019 grant call. It has been great to meet the faces behind the research, and to find out more about what their projects mean for prostate cancer patients. I can’t wait to bring together everything I’ve learned on these trips and share it all with all of our fantastic supporters- without whom these research projects would not be possible!

Firstly, I would like to tell you about our trip to Aberdeen. We met Professor Iain J McEwan and Dr Irene Hunter to learn about their PCR-funded research project on hormone therapy.

We travelled to Aberdeen the previous evening from Newcastle, where we had been visiting another PCR-funded scientist, Dr Luke Gaughan. A very short flight later and we arrived in Aberdeen, greeted by drizzling rain and a crisp wind! Once known for its fishing, shipbuilding, paper-making and textiles industries, the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s transformed Aberdeen, on the northeast coast of Scotland, into the ‘Oil Capital of Europe’. Many of the buildings in the city were constructed from locally sourced granite, giving Aberdeen a unique and distinctive appearance and the nickname ‘Granite City.’ The next morning, we had some time to explore so we wandered through the city and down to the harbour to watch the industrial ships trundle out to sea. It was my first time visiting Aberdeen and (despite the rain!) I really loved the sparkling granite buildings and the friendly atmosphere.

After breakfast, we made our way to the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) at the University of Aberdeen. Opened in 1996, it is the largest research institute at the university and specialises in innovative molecular and cell biology research. We were greeted by Iain and Irene who told us all about their exciting research project over a cup of tea. They are exploring ways to keep hormone therapy working for patients with prostate cancer even after resistance to current drugs. Unfortunately, for many prostate cancer patients, hormone therapy will eventually stop working. Iain and Irene will be testing different drugs in the hope that they will find a new treatment which could work beyond resistance to current hormone therapy.

Iain and Irene then took us on a tour of the lab where they are conducting their fascinating research! I studied Biology at university so I had some experience of labs but this was mostly limited to teaching labs and plant-based research. I wasn’t sure what to expect in a working medical research lab. From the familiarity of glass bottles and pipettes to the more unfamiliar and exciting technology; it was great to see where the research is actually. They have microscopes with screens and we were able to use these to examine prostate cancer cells in detail.

After the lab tour, we recorded a video with Iain talking about the project. It turns out it takes three PCR staff members and two scientists to set up a camera and a tripod! Following some slight technical difficulties and scrambling around with camera equipment, we were able to start the video. Irene was very happy to be behind the camera instead of in front of it and helped us to direct Iain! In between lots of laughs and outtakes, we were able to get some great footage to help us communicate their research.

Iain and Irene were very welcoming and we had a brilliant time in Aberdeen with lots of learning and laughter! We were able to ask lots of questions to find out more about how their research could help prostate cancer patients and improve treatments. It was also really lovely to get some feedback from them on how they find applying to and working with us. They were both very appreciative of the comments they received from the Patient Panel during their application. Iain said that it was not something he had ever received before and he found it very interesting and helpful. We are now using everything we have learned on all of our trips to launch project pages for all seven new projects, you can read about Iain and Irene’s project here!

We have an exciting year ahead of us here at PCR, with the launch of our remaining projects in the next few months. We want to say another massive thank you to our supporters! Without you, none of this would have been possible and we would not have been able to fund projects like Iain and Irene’s.

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