“This stay has given me the opportunity to learn cutting-edge techniques in the field of immuno-oncology”, Silvia Guil Luna

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.

Silvia at the cell culture lab

Home Institute: Maimónides Institute of Biomedical Research of Córdoba, Spain
Host Institute: PeterMac Callum Cancer Centre, Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Dates of visit: 25 August 2018 – 25 September 2018

Research: Development of preclinical models (organoids) of colorectal and oesophagous adenocarcinoma for the evaluation of targeted therapies based on p53 mutations.

Why did you decide to apply for an EACR Travel Fellowship?

I have been an EACR member for several years. I knew that the EACR offered many opportunities for training in your research career so I decided to apply for a Travel Fellowship because I thought that it could be a good option for my research in Melbourne.

Why did you choose the host lab?

I considered the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre because it is an excellent and prestigious Oncology research centre and in particular, Clemons’ lab has extensive experience in the development of pre-clinical models in Gastrointestinal Cancer that would bring great benefit to my research career.

Silvia at Dr. Clemons´s Lab
Can you summarise the research you did or what you learned on your visit?

During my research stay I had the opportunity to learn the development of pre-clinical models of gastrointestinal cancers and their use to investigate novel therapies for this disease. In particular, I have gained experience in in vitro immune cell killing assays with organoids co-cultured with matched patient tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes from colorectal and oesophageal cancer; and I have studied the effectiveness of the mutant, p53, targeting drug, APR-246, alone and in combination with conventional therapies in gastrointestinal cancers.

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

One of the goals that I achieved in the host lab that I could not do in my home lab was to learn the technique of the development of colorectal and oesophagous cancer organoids and the isolation of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) for co-culture with organoids for immunotherapy studies.

What was a personal highlight of your trip?

I have a personal goal of gaining both personal and scientific experience in a country as distant and different as Australia. In my opinion, Australia is a fascinating country with abundant and marvellous wild nature that I previously did not have the opportunity to visit. Thanks to this stay I have been able to discover it.

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

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre has modern research equipment and core facilities for Cancer Research, offering you multiple possibilities and enabling you to carry out excellent, high-quality research.

Dr. Clemons and Silvia at the lab
Did you have a personal mentor or anyone who particularly helped you?

During my research stay I was under the supervision of Dr. Nicholas Clemons. Dr. Clemons is the Group Leader in the Oncogenic Signalling & Growth Control Program at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. He was awarded his PhD for his research on the modulation of apoptotic pathways by cellular chaperones from the University of Melbourne in 2004 (based at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre). This was followed by a Medical Research Council post-doctoral fellowship studying esophageal carcinogenesis with Prof. Rebecca Fitzgerald at the MRC Cancer Unit, Cambridge, UK, where he was also a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge. In 2008, Dr. Clemons returned to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to continue his research. In collaboration with Prof. Wayne Phillips, he has built a vibrant research programme on oesophageal cancer that spans basic biology and translational research areas.

Dr. Clemons has been very attentive to me, both professionally and personally, and I have learned a lot thanks to him. He allowed me to feel like one of his team at all times.

How has the trip inspired you in your research?

Besides having had the opportunity to learn techniques and protocols that I can apply in my laboratory, it has allowed me to obtain new ideas related to the field of immuno-oncology that I have reflected in research projects related to my line.

Have you brought back any specific knowledge that has benefited your home lab?

Yes, in particular I have learned a technique to develop organoids from patients tumours and from patient derived xenografts and I have also learned about isolation of tumour-infiltrating T cells from fresh tumour tissues.

Does your lab plan to do any future collaboration with the host lab? Tell us about it.

I have had the opportunity to start a close collaboration with Clemons’ lab which has led us to work on manuscripts together, directly related to my work in my host institute.

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

In my opinion, this stay has given me the opportunity to learn cutting-edge techniques in the field of immuno-oncology that will allow me to continue developing my research line and that will greatly enrich my experience in this field of cancer research.