Recently I was able to see first-hand some of the cutting-edge cancer research taking place at the University of Bristol.
The university has invested significantly in developing world-class facilities and attracting leading scientists in the field, making Bristol an international centre for cancer research. So I was thrilled to be invited to the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine to explore the laboratories and meet some of the talented and dedicated scientists working on pioneering research.
I was welcomed by the new Head of School, cancer biologist Professor Anne Ridley FRS, and Wellcome Trust research training fellow Grace Edmunds. I met Grace last year at a community event and was fascinated to hear about her work at Bristol on blocking the stop signals which cancers use to evade the immune response. It was this meeting that prompted my recent invitation to the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.
It was a marvellously informative tour.
I visited the laboratory of Professor Eugenia Piddini’s group, where fruit fly tumour models are used to study the impact of cell competition in cancer.
I was given a demonstration of a high-throughput fluorescence microscope in action in Professor Rafael Carazo Salas’ lab. The microscope allows researchers to image live cells over time, to investigate how human stem cells grow and develop in vitro and to improve tissue engineering techniques.
I paid a visit to the Flow Cytometry Facility, to see how single immune cells are isolated from tumours to study the immune response to cancer.
I called into the school’s bioprinting facility to see how 3D printing is used to print tumour spheroids (which mimic the structures of solid tumours). Dr Adam Perriman presented me with an amazing 3D-printed cello as a souvenir of my visit!
Finally, I dropped into a teaching lab to see an undergraduate practical class, where first-year students were studying the hallmarks of different cancers.
My own experience with breast cancer in 2015, when I received such wonderful treatment by NHS doctors and nurses, gave me a keen interest in cancer research and led me to become a breast cancer ambassador for Breast Cancer Now. I’m proud that so much vital research is happening in my constituency, and it was truly inspiring to meet so many brilliant researchers who are committed to furthering our knowledge and understanding of this disease.