As an international community of cancer researchers, the European Association for Cancer Research stands united in support of our scientific colleagues in Ukraine. We offer financial support to displaced researchers from Ukraine in the form of funded short-term placements in international cancer research labs to help give them time and safety in which to plan their next move or apply for other roles. You can learn more about this support here.

Aamir Rizwan in the host lab

Aamir Rizwan is a medicine student at Kharkiv National Medical University, Ukraine who received EACR Ukraine Grant funding to help him take up a placement at Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Germany from July 2022.

Due to graduate after his last year of the academic semester in June 2023, he plans to continue his studies with the Dr. Med. Degree programme in the same lab, under the supervision of his mentor, Prof. Dr. Heike Allgayer.

He writes here about his experience.

How did you come to apply for an EACR Ukraine Grant?

After the unfortunate war, I was rigorously looking for opportunities to continue my academic journey. I came across plenty of help and opportunities through European Union’s portal advertisements, including the EACR’s grant for researchers in Ukraine.

Why did you choose the host lab?

Coming from a pure medicinal background, I wanted to apply the knowledge I have gained in Ukraine as much as possible. Since research is inherently comfortable with a pure sciences background, Prof. Allgayer’s Experimental Surgery – Tumour Metastasis perfectly amalgamates medicine and research. My topic of correlation between Primary Colorectal Cancer and Metastasis involved translational sciences, where the use of conventional tumour mechanisms learnt in Medicinal Pathology, Pharma comes in handy.

Describe a typical day on your placement.

I would usually wake up at 7 in the morning, since I attend online classes back in Kharkiv, Ukraine. It would finish at 9:45 approximately. By 10:15, I would be in the lab as I live close to the facility. Depending on the day’s schedule, I would either do experiments alone, or if a new regimen needs to be learned then under the Post-Doc’s supervision, or literary analysis.

Did you take part in any interesting local or cultural activities?

I attended Oktoberfest, which I had heard about all my life, but the grandeur and the scale of it was something I couldn’t have ever imagined! I also participated in the forty-day ritual fasting from February until Easter, giving up one thing that’s essentially non-essential. I gave up coffee and sugar, and I have to say it was a wonderful experience.

Aamir with Prof. Dr. Heike Allgayer

Did you have a personal mentor or anyone who particularly helped you?

I couldn’t be grateful enough to Prof. Dr. Heike Allgayer’s help and constant encouragement during the journey I undertook. Starting from the paperwork needed last summer, the bureaucracy, and knowing that I needed some extra lessons with bench regimen, I’m very grateful that she accepted me into the program. I could look up to her, as she herself came from the exact same academic timeline as me, having pursued medicine and eventually research. That is particularly why I’ve chosen to continue my stay under her supervision.

A short summary of Aamir’s current research: Metastasis still is the major challenge for (personalized) therapy and death in cancer. Recently, the host department of Prof. Allgayer published at this time, the most comprehensive whole-genome study of colorectal metastasis vs. matched primary tumours in colorectal cancer (CRC). From this data, they proposed novel genomic components of disease progression and metastasis evolution, leading to a new model
of CRC progression. Some of the genomic changes they discovered to be enriched during CRC progression are potentially relevant for targeted therapy since they represent potentially “actionable targets”, meaning genes/gene products against which targeted therapeutics have already entered the clinic or are currently in development.

Want to find out more?

To find out about our Ukraine Grants, please click here for more information: EACR Ukraine Grants.