Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Meet the Scientists Finding Cures for the Future; SCIENCE London Leads the World When It Comes to Medical Research. Madlen Davies Visits the Francis Crick Institute to Learn about the Latest Life-Changing Breakthroughs

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Meet the Scientists Finding Cures for the Future; SCIENCE London Leads the World When It Comes to Medical Research. Madlen Davies Visits the Francis Crick Institute to Learn about the Latest Life-Changing Breakthroughs

Article excerpt

Byline: Madlen Davies

SITTING in King's Cross is Europe's biggest biomedical research centre: The Francis Crick Institute. Named after the Nobel Prize winner who helped discover the structure of DNA, the centre hosts more than 1,000 science working at the forefront of medical research. Here we profile six of the best.

Understanding cancer Cancer is now the second leading cause of death worldwide, with one in two British people diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime, according to Cancer Research UK. Deborah Caswell, a 31-year-old postdoctoral researcher, is investigating whether exercise could improve treatment. Her research explores whether mice living in cages with exercise wheels and climbing frames respond better to therapies that boost the immune system. Patients with advanced cancer begin losing weight and wasting away, a phenomenon called cachexia. As their weight drops it affects their treatment as they have to stop taking certain drugs.

Caswell's initial results show active mice lose less weight. If the results are the same in human patients, it could prevent weight loss and allow treatment to continue for longer. "I hope the results of my research will improve the quality of life for the millions of British citizens living with cancer today," she said.

Another of the Institute's cancer researchers is 27-year-old PhD student Esther Wershof. As a mathematician she thought she would end up working in the City, until she saw an advert for a job in academia. Now she works with biologists, using mathematical models to get a better understanding of how cancers spread. The body sees cancer as a wound, and sends fibroblast cells, which lay down collagen fibres, to "repair" it. The fibres often line up, serving as "highways" for the cancer to spread to other parts of the body. Esther studies the patterns of these fibres, hoping researchers could one day disrupt them. "If we can make it harder for the tumour to spread, we can save lives," she said.

Fighting HIV Aaron Ferron, a 29-year-old laboratory research scientist, is studying retroviruses, ancient viruses that infected our ancestors millions of years ago and now make up about eight per cent of our DNA. Some retroviruses can protect against infections, and Ferron is investigating whether they could treat HIV and similar viruses. "The goal would be to stop HIV completely," he said.

Tracking motor neurone disease In 2014, the "ice bucket challenge" swept social media raising millions of pounds for charity. The viral campaign raised nearly PS95 million for a currently incurable condition: motor neurone disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). …

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