Conference and Professional Development Grant recipient: Pamela Ajuyah

30 July 2014
TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up recipient Pamela Ajuyah, UTS

Third year PhD candidate Pamela Ajuyah recently attended the RNA Silencing Keystone Symposia in Seattle, USA, thanks to a TCRN Conference and Professional Development grant. For Pamela, a student in the Head and Neck Cancer group at UTS, this was an important opportunity for her to present her work.

“miRNA are dysregulated in cancer making them useful biomarkers, particularly for cancers which have very few genetic markers such as head & neck cancer” explained Pamela. “This conference had a strong focus on miRNA that are differentially regulated in pathological processes. Several presentations highlighted translational research involving dysregulated miRNA and the steps taken to achieve the transition from basic research to human clinical trials”. 

Pamela presented her own research which looks at two dysregulated miRNAs found in head and neck tumours that are associated with aggressive cancers that have metastatic potential.

“One focus area of the meeting was RNA silencing pathways in cancer: identification of components of the pathway, gene and protein expression and regulation of RNA” said Pamela. “This was directly relevant to my research” she continued, “as I study the modes of interaction between my miRNA of interest and the RNA silencing of their target, the tumour suppressor gene PDCD4”.

“There was also a heavy emphasis on RNA silencing pathways and the main players. It is important to hear the latest opinions as there are still a lot of “grey areas” in the field of non-coding RNA” Pamela explained. “Research focusing on this sheds light on new pathways and novel molecules, enabling us to modify current strategies in the lab and clinical trials utilising these RNAs and pathways”.

“Another highlight of this conference was the therapeutic development of small RNAs” added Pamela, “including discussion of the potential use of antagomirs in the clinic. I envisage that a future outcome of my research would be to develop antisense inhibitors such as antagomirs, targeted to the miRNA involved in tumor cell metastasis”.

Since receiving her TCRN Conference and Professional Development grant, Pamela has been awarded a TCRN PhD Top-up Scholarship award. “My involvement with the TCRN has been an enlightening experience. I’ve attended the POWH cancer grand rounds, exposing me to clinical research and providing an insight into the clinical setting. The TCRN PhD Skills and Development workshop earlier this introduced how our research is viewed from a cancer consumer’s perspective as well as development of basic networking skills and how to present our research to the broader community. I have found the TCRN to be an active organisation that encourages its student members to participate and learn from a variety of opportunities.”

Grant snapshot:

Conference: RNA Silencing Keystone Symposia
Location: Seattle, USA
Funding Round: Round 1, 2014

PhD Scholarship Top-up student profile: Pamela Ajuyah