Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Dr Jo Durgan, winner of 2015 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science UK & Ireland Fellowship

Dr Joanne Durgan wins 2015 L'Oréal-UNESCO Fellowship

Dr Jo Durgan, a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute’s Signalling research programme and Marie Curie Fellow has been awarded a prestigious L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science UK & Ireland Fellowship recognising outstanding female researchers. Joanne was one of eight shortlisted candidates from a total of 350 applications and is a recipient of one of the five 2015 fellowships.
Jo said: “I was extremely pleased to be awarded one of the 2015 L’ Oréal-UNESCO UK & Ireland For Women in Science Fellowships. This award will provide me with flexible support which will have a major impact on both my research and career. Specifically, these funds will allow me to enhance my experimental work, undertake training in new techniques and attend conferences. I am also fortunate to join the large network of L’Oreal fellows, who will become valuable colleagues and future collaborators”.
Microscopic image showing cell cannibilism
Jo’s research explores ‘cell cannibalism’ in cancer, where one cell is engulfed, killed and digested by another cell. Cannibalism occurs frequently in tumours, where it is termed ‘entosis’. Pathologists have observed this phenomenon for over a century, but its importance and potential therapeutic value have not been well studied. Emerging research now seeks to 1) unravel the mechanisms that drive entosis, 2) determine the effects of entosis on the tumour and 3) assess whether entosis can be harnessed as a novel means of controlling tumour growth. In her study, Jo will investigate the effects of cancer-linked genetic mutations on entosis, and test if cancer cell cannibalism promotes or restricts tumour growth. The research will also investigate how frequently cannibalism occurs in tumours of different types, severities and genetic backgrounds, to gain new insight into how entosis relates to disease. This work aims to achieve a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between cell cannibalism and cancer, which may open new avenues for cancer research.
The national fellowships support female researchers in the next stage of their career and are awarded by a partnership between L'Oréal UK & Ireland, the UK National Commission for UNESCO and the Irish National Commission for UNESCO, together with the support of the Royal Society. A fellowship provides £15,000 in funding to support twelve months of postdoctoral research. The funds can be used flexibly to provide whatever is required to facilitate the research and career of the recipient, whether this is lab equipment, funds to attend academic conferences or to cover childcare provision.
Professor Michael Wakelam, Institute Director said: “On behalf of the Institute I’m delighted to congratulate Jo on her well-deserved success. In addition to the flexibility provided by the fellowship Jo also becomes a part of the network established by the programme over the last eight years which will be hugely beneficial. We look forward to supporting her every step of the way.”

Image description:

Eaten alive: cell cannibalism in cancer – one breast cancer cell has been completely engulfed by its neighbour through a process termed entosis. The internalised cell will be killed and digested by its host in an act of cellular cannibalism. The cell periphery is marked in green, the cell body in red and the DNA in blue, showing that the internalised cell is still alive, and in fact about to commence division inside of its host. Image credit: Dr Jo Durgan, Babraham Institute.

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1 July, 2015