“I had the chance to learn some techniques that we had not used before”, Bilal Cig, Suleyman Demirel University

PhD student Bilal ÇİĞ from Turkey was awarded a Travel Fellowship to attend the three-week course on "Ion channels in the brain in health and disease" at the University of Bordeaux.

EACR Travel Fellowships are co-sponsored by Worldwide Cancer Research and provide funds up to €3,000 to early-career cancer researchers. For more information on how to apply for Travel Fellowships, you can visit the EACR website.

Home institution and country: Suleyman Demirel University, Merkez/Isparta, Turkey
Host institution and country: University of Bordeaux, Neurocampus Bordeaux, France
Dates of visit: 04 September 2017 – 22 September 2017

I am investigating the neuropathic pain caused by the chemotherapy agents used in the treatment of cancer patients. My area of work focuses on the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels discovered for the first time in the eye cells of the vinegar sieve. I am investigating the role of these cation channels in chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain treatment. These drugs impair the mechanisms of ion channels, reduce the threshold of pain and cause disruption in axonal transport.

Why did you choose the host lab?

I am working on ion channels, which are the most important signal pathways in cells and also I am a neuroscientist. The main theme of this course was the ion channels in the brain in terms of health and disease and I wanted to study the influence of ion channels in cancer progression and treatment.

Bilal Cig with his host lab.
Can you summarise the research you did or what you learned on your visit?

My area of interest is peripheral neuropathic pain caused by chemotherapy. These chemotherapeutic drugs may be platinum-based, vinca alkaloids, and taksan-based. These drugs change the pain threshold values in peripheral neurons. The alteration of the threshold values of the peripheral nerves after chemotherapy treatment leads to overactivation of some ion channels which are exerting in these peripheral nerves. This also causes neuronal damage and these side effects can adversely affect the quality of life of cancer patients and may even lead to cessation of treatment with these neoplastic drugs. The course of ion channels in the brain in health and disease has given me the opportunity to get to know the molecular mechanisms of ion channels. By participating in this course, I was able to learn in detail about the molecular mechanisms of the channels that express in almost all of our organs, such as TRP (transient receptor potential) channels and double-pore channels (potassium channels). I learned important information in this course, about the treatment of chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain through ion channels, which cancer patients suffer from.

It was an incredible experience for me as someone with a modest laboratory team with limited opportunities.

What were you able to do that you could not have achieved in your home lab?

My home lab does not have molecular research facilities like super resolution imaging devices. I also had the chance to learn some techniques that we had not used before. I had the opportunity to work on different projects with the most successful young friends who were selected from different countries such as the USA, UK, India and many more.

Was the host institution very different from your own / was there anything you particularly liked about the host institution?

It was a great laboratory consisting of 16 institutes and 45 research groups. It was an incredible experience for me as someone with a modest laboratory team with limited opportunities. A chemical that is needed comes immediately after an order is placed. The material used in the work is ample and we are experiencing difficulties in these matters in our own laboratory.

How has this visit been beneficial to your research and/or your career?

As I outlined above, it was an important turning point for my future academic career, opening up new horizons. This was not an exaggeration, it was certainly fruitful and useful for me. I have the chance to cooperate with all the instructors we worked with on this course. Almost all keynote presenters emphasised their need for postdoctoral researchers.