EACR Travel Fellowships are co-sponsored by Worldwide Cancer Research and provide funds up to €3,000 to early-career cancer researchers. The Travel Fellowship programme is currently not accepting new applications due to COVID-19. This is being reviewed every few months.
We ask our Travel Fellows to send us a report of their time spent in their host institutions, and this time we are featuring Esther, who visited the USA earlier this year. Her trip was originally planned for April 2020, and we are very glad she was able to make the trip after it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can read about other Travel Fellowship awardees and their experiences here.
Name: Esther Redin Resano
Job title: PhD student
Home institute: CIMA Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain
Host institute: Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, USA
Dates of visit: January – July 2021
Other funding organisations who supported your trip: CIBERONC Network
Research: Lung cancer is one of the most common and aggressive cancersubtype. Lung cancer patients show low overall survival and the vast majority develop drug resistances during the course of the treatment. My thesis project is focused on understanding the role of an oncogenickinase and exploring new pharmacological strategies to target it alone or in combination with immunotherapy in lung cancer. The final purpose of this istohelp to identify subsets of patients who could benefit frommore personalized targeted therapies.
Why did you decide to apply for an EACR Travel Fellowship?
Prof. Katerina Politi’s lab has broad experience in the study of the tumor microenvironment in lung cancer. My lab has been collaborating with her team on various projects and she was very willing to host me. It was a great opportunity to be able to develop some key experiments of my thesis at her group and learn from their expertise in the field.
Going to Yale has undoubtedly made me grow
Can you summarise the research you did or what you learned on your visit?
The main objective of the stay was to study new immunotherapeutic combinatorial strategies in small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Most of the SCLC patients do not respond to immunotherapy and we aimed to understand the molecular mechanism subjacent to that. I explored pharmacological strategies to overcome this resistance in a genetically modified murine SCLC model. Moreover, I tested two inhibitors that target my protein of interest in two SCLC patient derived xenografts (PDXs).
What were you able to do that you could not have achieved in your home lab?
Most of SCLC patients do not undergo surgery. This makes it very challenging to find SCLC patients’ specimens and established PDXs to study therapeutic strategies in vivo. For this reason, it was a great opportunity for Prof. Politi to share with us two SCLC PDXs that expressed my kinase of interest. Additionally, I learnt how to grow PDX-derived organoids to test the efficacy of different therapies in 3D conditions in vitro.
Did you take part in any interesting cultural activities?
During the first few months, I could not take part in many cultural activities due to COVID-19. However, when the vaccination rates increased, I visited the main cities of the American East coast: New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. I particularly enjoyed learning about the American culture by visiting the Yale University Art Gallery and the National Museum of African American History in Washington. One of the best American experiences I had was celebrating the 4th of July with my friends in New York.
Was there anything you particularly liked about the host institute?
I really liked the virtual seminars and conferences, which I attended weekly. Each department gave a virtual talk about the latest advances in their research. By doing this, I interacted with other PhD students, I learnt new techniques and I was very enriched by the feedback they gave me when I presented my experiments and results. Attending these talks made me ask myself scientific questions that I had never thought about before.
Have you brought back any specific knowledge that has benefited your home lab?
At Yale, I learnt how to successfully implant PDXs in mice and grow organoids coming from these tumors. I also have gained more confidence in using the flow cytometry to analyse multiple markers simultaneously. Thanks to this stay I have greatly improved my scientific skills.
How has this visit been beneficial to your research and your career?
Going to Yale has undoubtedly made me grow not only professionally but also personally. Living this international experience has opened my mind and I have learned to adapt to a different work environment and to gain a professional network. I thank everyone at Politi’s lab for the welcoming and support during my stay.
If you are interested in applying for the Travel Fellowship scheme, please click the EACR Travel Fellowships logo for more information.