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Teesside University academic wins cancer research funding boost

24 March 2021 @TeessideUni

 

Vital work into cancer research by a Teesside University academic has received a welcome boost in the form of almost £100,000 funding.

Dr Maria Juanes, biomedical sciences lecturer, School of Health & Life Sciences
Dr Maria Juanes, biomedical sciences lecturer, School of Health & Life Sciences

Dr Maria Angeles Juanes Ortiz, a biomedical sciences lecturer in the School of Health & Life Sciences, has been awarded the funding as winner of the highly competitive Association of Medical Sciences Springboard prize.

Her research, carried out at the National Horizons Centre, aims to help diagnose early stages of cancers, which can help to increase success of treatment.

Her work defines mechanisms of cell migration to discover novel genetic signatures and/or biomarkers for early diagnosis of cancers.

The prize will help to fund her ongoing research into molecular coordination between cytoskeletal networks in collective cell migration and cell division and its impact on development and disease.

Dr Juanes said: “Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third highest cause of cancer death worldwide and is on the increase, especially in developed nations. In 2017, the UK alone registered 43,438 new cases and 16,300 deaths from CRC.

“Despite new advances in treatments and technologies, this may increase as much as thirty percent by 2030. Early detection is key to suppress this trend by increasing the likelihood of successful treatment, with concomitant societal and economic impacts derived from avoiding death or disability from CRC.

“Alteration of certain genes known as ‘gate-keepers’ promote cancer. One of them known as Adenomatous Polyposis Coli (APC), is altered in more than 85 percent of CRC cases. In addition, defective APC facilitates other gut diseases, for example inflammatory bowel disease.”

These translational efforts will advance our ability to develop improved and more personalised therapies

Dr Maria Juanes, biomedical sciences lecturer, School of Health & Life Sciences

Dr Juanes will use a multi-scale approach, from sophisticated single molecule assays to preclinical models that recreate patient responses in the laboratory in order to study how APC alterations affect healthy cell movement, which in turn is required to maintain normal gut structure.

She explained: “The prime goal of this study is to discover specific genetic signatures and/or biomarkers to permit not only the early identification of patients at risk of a specific gut disorders but also support doctors in clinical decision making, treatment selection and prediction of outcomes.

“Furthermore, these translational efforts will advance our ability to develop improved and more personalised therapies.”

Commenting on the Springboard prize of £99,469, she added: “This award will open doors to develop a broad pre-clinical programme with high impact on cancer cell behaviour, and tissue homeostasis/regeneration in collaboration with experts in basic research as well as with clinicians and enterprises. In addition, it will greatly enhance my success for future competitive external funding as a new investigator.”

The National Horizons Centre is a £22.3 million centre of excellence for the bioscience industries based at Central Park, Darlington, which is working to grow the capacity of the life science sector in the Tees Valley and beyond.