After losing her friend to Ewing sarcoma, Tyler tells us more about her drive to succeed and what difference our PhD Studentship Grant could make to future Ewing sarcoma patients.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you’ve decided to get involved in Ewing sarcoma research?
I completed an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science, and obtained a First Class Honors in 2017. I loved working in the lab, and this inspired me to go on to do a Masters degree in Molecular Medicine at the University of Leeds, which specialised in cancer immunology. As part of the Masters I completed a research project under the supervision of Dr Fiona Errington Mais, investigating the use of Oncolytic Virus therapy for Colorectal cancer. While I was working on this project, Professor Graham Cook was awarded the grant from BCRT to fund a PhD Studentship Grant 'Oncolytic virus therapy for Ewing sarcoma'. I applied for the studentship and was successful, and began the research in October 2018.
I lost a friend, Will, to Ewing Sarcoma in 2015, and while I always knew I wanted to undertake a PhD in cancer immunotherapy, when this project came up, it was something very close to my heart, and gave me a personal drive to succeed.
What does a day look like in your lab?
A typical day in lab consists of culturing Ewing Sarcoma cell lines, which I use to screen Oncolytic Viruses, to determine if these agents can kill Ewing Sarcoma cells. Oncolytic Viruses are an immunotherapy, so their effect on immune cells is also investigated. I obtain immune cells from blood samples, and assess the ability of Oncolytic viruses to activate ‘killer’ cells of the immune system. Alongside this, I work on developing a more representative 3D model of Ewing sarcoma, which we can use in the lab to screen Oncolytic Viruses.
Why is funding for a PhD Studentship Grant so important?
Funding for PhD studentships is so important, as it allows research to be carried out to investigate new treatment options for bone cancer patients. The length of such projects, such as mine which is 4 years, allows time to learn more and for the research to progress. The fact that BCRT have been able to offer so many opportunities for studentships over recent years is amazing, and is highly reflective of their incredible community of supporters.
What difference do you think your work could make to Ewing sarcoma patients in the future?
Current treatment options for Ewing Sarcoma are very limited, and new treatment options are vital to improve patient outcomes. The Oncolytic Viruses being investigated in the lab have shown positive results in other cancers, and importantly, have demonstrated safety in patients. This has important implications for Ewing sarcoma patients, as it reduces the time between lab-based research and clinical trials. Promising results in the lab could be quickly taken to the clinic for trials in Ewing sarcoma patients.
You’ve attended our patient conference and have a lab visit planned to show our supporters your work, why do you think engagement with our supporters is so important?
Attending the BCRT conference in 2018 opened my eyes to the dedication of bone cancer patients and their families to raising funds to support not only research, but awareness and support systems for patients. It is so important for supporters to be updated with the results of research projects, which are only made possible by their hard work.
Is there a message you would like to send to the supporters of the charity?
I am truly grateful to each supporter of BCRT, as it is their support which makes research to improve outcomes for bone cancer patients possible.
We would like to say a huge congratulations to Tyler for winning 1st place for the Leeds Institute of Medical Research Poster Symposium in April, and 2nd place at the Leeds Doctoral College Symposium in June.