Conference and Professional Development Grant Recipient: Sarah Hancock

9 September 2019
Sarah H. photo.JPG

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your research? (in lay terms for the newsletter)

My research focuses on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, a disease that has a notoriously low survival rate and few treatment options. In order to sustain their uncontrolled growth in nutrient poor environments, cancer cells completely rewire their metabolism. It is thought that this metabolic reprogramming also allows to the cancer cells to evade and resist treatment by chemotherapy. I study this adaptive metabolic reprogramming to identify vulnerable pathways that can be targeted by co-therapies to improve the action of chemotherapy. To do this I use a technique known as metabolomics, which uses liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry to comprehensively profile metabolites with cells.

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?)

The conference I attended was Metabolomics 2019, which was held in The Hague (Netherlands). I chose to attend this conference to stay up-to-date with the latest methods in the field, and to also learn about new emerging technologies in this area of research.

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

That I was able to present my research at this conference was perhaps the most important outcome, as through this I was able to meet with key researchers in the field interested in my work. This has in turn helped me to grow my network and build a profile as a cancer metabolism researcher.

Could you tell us about your presentation at the conference?

I presented some of my recent work studying adaptive metabolic reprogramming in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, and how we are narrowing down the different metabolic pathways the cancer cells are using to circumvent chemotherapy treatment.

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

There is a lot of new work being down within the field on scaling the method that down so that it is able to detect metabolite signals from single cells. This is something that I would like to work on myself, and I think that when coupled with liquid biopsies taken from patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma that it could be a powerful tool for predicting which co-therapies are likely to work best in patients.

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

By discovering pathways that involved in chemotherapy resistance in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma we hope to be able to develop new therapies that can improve response to currently used chemotherapy treatments. This will translate to improved patient survival.

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

I have been a member of the TCRN since the start of 2018. I also serve on the Research Access Committee for the TCRNs Health Service Alliance Biobank.

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?

There is very little funding available to attend conferences, and those that are available are extremely competitive. Without the generous support of the TCRN I would not have been able to attend this international conference, and so I am very grateful for this funding.