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: Henrique Matos Fernandes de Oliveira Duarte
Title: PhD Student
Home Institution: Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of the University of Porto (Ipatimup/i3S), Porto, Portugal
Host Institution: Center for Proteomics and Metabolomics, Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), Leiden, The Netherlands
Dates of visit: 1 January – 30 March 2019
Other funding organisations who supported your trip: Portuguese National Funding Agency for Science, Research and Technology (FCT)
Research: Every cell of the human body is covered by a dense array of sugar molecules, organized into diverse and complex structures known as glycans, which act as crucial regulators of multiple cellular and physiological processes. However, the sugars decorating both healthy and cancer cells are considerably different. Indeed, cancer-associated sugar moieties play important roles in dictating the malignant behavior of tumor cells. My project focuses on unveiling the major glycan differences found between healthy and transformed cells of the human stomach. Furthermore, I aim at disclosing the molecular pathways through which cancer-associated glycans drive therapeutic resistance in gastric cancer cells.
Why did you decide to apply for an EACR Travel Fellowship?
At the beginning of my PhD studies, I was awarded with a PhD studentship by the Portuguese National Funding Agency for Science, Research and Technology (FCT). However, the funding made available by the referred studentship may not have been enough to efficiently cover all the costs associated with traveling to a foreign lab to conduct part of my research work plan. Being an EACR member, I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to apply for an EACR Travel Fellowship, to help support my 3-month stay at the LUMC.
Why did you choose the host lab?
My secondment period was hosted by the Center for Proteomics and Metabolomics (CPM) of the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). The CPM research center aims at developing and implementing cutting-edge proteomics and metabolomics technology for analyzing disease-associated molecular mechanisms and fingerprints within all research focus areas of the LUMC, to promote innovation within biomedical research and public health. Given the topic of my research project, I decided the CPM would be the perfect lab to host the experiments I had planned to conduct. Furthermore, Prof. Manfred Wuhrer, head of the CPM, had been a collaborator of my own scientific supervisor, Prof. Celso Reis.
What would your typical day look like?
During my 3-month stay in Leiden, I rented a room within a beautiful 3-story house. I shared the flat with three other wonderful international students with whom I have made unforgettable memories. I also rented a bike so I could travel around like many Dutch people. Every morning, I would cycle to the LUMC via a beautiful road surrounded by nature and breathtaking landscapes. My work days were very diverse. In between writing and performing wet lab experiments, the working hours would fly by. In the evenings, I would usually go out for dinner or just have a beer with my lab colleagues or flat mates.
Have you brought back any specific knowledge/technique(s) that has benefited your home lab?
The CPM holds the highest level of expertise in the fields of analytical chemistry, clinical proteomics and metabolomics. The available key technologies are liquid separations (liquid chromatography and capillary electrophoresis), gas chromatography, mass spectrometry (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Their main field of expertise is the application of these technologies in clinical research. During my stay at the CPM, I applied distinct MS-based workflows to analyze, in detail, the sugar composition of cancer cells from the stomach. I gathered precious theoretical and practical knowledge on the above-mentioned technologies, which have been crucial for the progress of my PhD project, now that I am back at home.
I felt supported and included by everyone
The scientific results I obtained from this secondment period at the CPM are quite promising and encouraging. They will certainly be included in a scientific manuscript as a part of my PhD scientific outputs. Furthermore, since my return, I have kept in close contact with both my CPM supervisors and colleagues. My host lab is excited to keep this collaboration very much alive, and I would relish the opportunity to come back to the CPM, either for a social or professional visit. I will be forever thankful to the CPM crew who made every effort to make my stay in Leiden as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
What was a personal highlight of your trip?
The CPM community welcomed me with open arms and formidable hospitality. Since day one, I felt supported and included by everyone with whom I had the privilege to work with or learn from. The environment at the lab was welcoming and dynamic, filled with scientific discussion and engaging social breaks, gatherings and activities. The fact that this research center hosts the research work of many other international students further motivated me to interact, discuss and share my own knowledge and scientific questions. Furthermore, the CPM frequently hosted extremely interesting scientific seminars that helped to make my stay even more profitable and rewarding.
If you are interested in applying to the Travel Fellowship scheme, please click the EACR Travel Fellowships logo for more information.