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.
Name: Camille Hurley
Title: PhD student
Home institute: Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, Ireland
Host institute: Cancer, Immunology & Immunopathology Working Group, Centre de Recherche des Cordeliers, Paris, France
Dates of visit: April – December 2018
Research: My research focuses on the role of the immune system in breast cancer tumours. In particular, I am investigating the different anti-tumour and pro-tumour subtypes of immune cells found in breast tumours and the impact of these different types of immune cells on patient outcome. During my time with Professor Catherine Sautès-Fridman’s working group, I learned a novel technique to detect the various immune cells in patient tumours.
Why did you decide to apply for an EACR Travel Fellowship?
My supervisor at my home institute in Dublin suggested applying for the EACR Travel Fellowship as I have limited funds in my scholarship to support research visits to further my knowledge and provide additional training.
Why did you choose the host lab?
We decided it would be best to learn the technique, multiplexed immunohistochemistry (IHC), with the Sautès-Fridman working group, an immuno-oncology research group. The group has years of experience investigating the microenvironment and immune millieu of various solid tumours. The group uses both monoplex IHC (detecting one protein of interest at a time) and multiplex IHC (concurrently detecting multiple proteins of interest). This meant that their lab was perfectly equipped for carrying out this type of research.
Can you summarise the research you did or what you learned on your visit?
I first learned monoplex IHC and then optimized five multiplex IHC panels, each detecting 3 immune- or stromal-related markers. Following this, I applied the optimized panels to breast tumour samples, which I had brought with me from Ireland. Most of the necessary equipment for multiplex IHC is available to me in Dublin because it is regularly used in monoplex IHC. However, expertise in multiplex IHC that I was exposed to in the Sautès-Fridman working group was invaluable in my learning of the technique. I am now confident in my knowledge of multiplexing to establish the technique in my home institute.
Did you have a personal mentor or anyone who particularly helped you?
The organisation of the labs was quite different to my home institute. They were smaller with communal working bench spaces based on technique and type of equipment, rather than each person having their own bench space. This was something I found quite daunting when I first saw the lab, especially because of potential language barriers with other researchers using the space. However, I discovered it was actually a great way to get communicating with everyone in the lab from the getgo. Most staff and researchers of the working groups were from France so the spoken work language was French. Any person that could, kindly spoke to me in English at the beginning. Over time, I improved and we switched more often to French.
I was taught IHC by a very experienced and hard-working research engineer, Laetitia. This was very interesting and enjoyable and I am truly grateful to her for all of her guidance. All of the other students, researchers, technicians, and professors were also very welcoming and approachable. This enabled me to settle in and become part of the lab-family. After work I would go out around the city, either with friends from the lab or from outside of work. I would take advantage of the warm evenings in the summer or sit under the heaters on a terrace in the autumn and winter.
I am now confident in my knowledge
What would your ‘typical day’ look like?
My commute every day was a short train journey to the centre of Paris. Even with the strikes, I enjoyed my commute as it helped me feel integrated in the city. From the train I walked five minutes to the research centre, of course stopping off in the bakery on the way! One part of the everyday working life that I really enjoyed was that everyone ate lunch together. Compared to my home institute, where students and staff have separate eating areas, this was really refreshing.
Another aspect that was different to the working environment at my home institute was that multiple group members worked on various clinical projects together. This is rather than each person having an individual project. Therefore, it was impressive to see the level of organisation, management, and communication required in that collaborative working environment.
What was a personal highlight of your trip?
A personal highlight was celebrating my birthday on the bank of the River Seine with my friends and my visiting siblings. It was topped off by being in the summer! A lab highlight was the moment I looked under the microscope and saw after many tests that I had finally gotten one of my more complicated multiplex IHC panels to work!
During my time in Paris, I lived in a residence called Maison Internationale in the Cité Universitaire campus. Here I met many other researchers, ranging from PhD students to professors, from all over the world. Some had their young children with them so there was quite a variety of ages and nationalities sharing the small kitchen. For me, learning about each other’s research and culture was the best part of living in a shared residence.
How has this visit been beneficial to your research and your career?
Overall, going to Paris was a truly special and important trip for me personally and professionally. I expanded my scientific network, adapted to a foreign working environment, learned a new technique and progressed in my research. I learned a novel technique that I can now establish in my home institute. In turn, this will enable further collaborations with other researchers in Ireland.
If you are interested in applying to the Travel Fellowship scheme, please click the EACR Travel Fellowships logo for more information.