Conference and Professional Development Grant Recipient: Kate Guan

9 September 2019

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your research? 

After completing my PhD from UNSW in 2017, I joined the Translation Cancer Metabolism Laboratory in 2017 as a post-doctoral researcher. Led by Associate Professor Jeff Holst at the Centenary Institute, the Holst lab re-located to UNSW in 2018 based at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre. My current research focuses on amino acid transporters and cell metabolisms to elucidate nutrient stress pathways regulating melanoma survival, particularly in the setting of treatment resistance to BRAF inhibitors and immunotherapies. I also use multifaceted approaches to understand metabolic reprogramming of cancer cells which may offer therapeutic strategies that can be translated into the clinic to treat melanoma patients.

Could you tell us about the conference you went to and why you chose to attend this conference? (What is unique, unusual or particularly important about it?)

Cold Spring Harbor laboratory (CSHL) is renowned for its research programs, excellent short courses and workshops. The metabolomics course provides hands-on exercises, experiments and opportunities to learn the fundamentals of metabolomics from experts. There’s an excellent panel of leading scientists in their field who discuss their current research and shared their knowledge. With a small number of selected students per class, students can benefit from more focused discussions and interactions with the instructors. This is a great opportunity to both learn new techniques and establish new connections.

What would be the most important outcomes of the conference for you – key learnings, or people you met, new collaboration, etc.?

The CSHL course accelerated my understanding in the latest metabolomics techniques and data interpretation of metabolomics studies. In particular, generation and analysis of both gas-chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography (LC) mass spectrometry data. Using MS approach to carry out targeted and untargeted metabolomics studies and determine glycolytic and respiratory rate by Seahorse XF analysis. Discussions with the course instructors were very helpful for setting up a more efficient metabolomic workflow to maximise the quality and the interpretation of our clinical data.

Could you tell us about your presentation at the conference?


Were there any new knowledge or strategies from the conference you found interesting and possibly an interest of other TCRN members?

A major discussion point during the course was the significance of metabolomics and how it has been redefined from biomarker identification method to the new discovery of drivers of biological processes. TCRN members should have some basic knowledge of the impact of metabolome and its close link to the phenotype of the biological process. Metabolomics techniques should be considered and utilised in certain studies as it can be a powerful discovery tool to find novel biomarkers or drivers which may offer therapeutic strategies that can be translated into the clinic to treat cancer patients.

How can your research translate into improvements in patient care and clinical outcomes (Translational relevance)?

My research focuses on how amino acid transporters can be involved in modulation metabolic pathways that may impact different cancer types and treatments, by utilising highly skilled techniques that I’ve learnt from the metabolomics course will help me to better understand the metabolic reprogramming of cancer cells. My research also enables the collection of interpretable and meaningful metabolomics data from clinical samples, which will lead to the development of more effective treatments and interventions for cancer patients. Ultimately, the development of metabolomic biomarkers in our current study may lead to the adoption of this technique in other research studies across the TCRN network.

Could you tell us about your membership with the TCRN – what’s your involvement, how long have you been a member etc.?

I was a TCRN member during my PhD at UNSW from 2012-2016 and regularly attended TCRN seminars and events. After returning to the Adult Cancer Program at the Lowy I re-joined TCRN.

You received funding to attend the conference – could you tell us about the difficulties of obtaining funding for these sorts of activities and how the TCRN fills a need?

It was difficult to obtain travel funding, especially for attending professional development courses as there is limited funding support available. The TCRN professional development grant helped with offsetting the cost of the metabolomics course. This grant also provided me with the opportunity to enhance my knowledge and skills for my current research.