A University of Nottingham scientist who uses fruit flies to study the genetics of cancer has won a prestigious award from Cancer Research UK.
Dr Marios Georgiou, lecturer in cell biology in the University's School of Biomedical Sciences, has been awarded a five year Career Establishment Award of -600,000. The award is given every year to new investigators who are set to become the eminent cancer scientists of the future.
Cancer Research UK has awarded a total of -12 million to ten exceptional researchers across the country to develop their careers and to support future exciting discoveries which will allow more people to beat cancer than ever before.
Dr Georgiou will use the award to identify the genes that are important for a benign tumour to transform into a malignant one. This is crucial to understanding how tumours spread to other parts of the body.
Dr Georgiou said: "I am thrilled and honoured that such a prestigious organisation as CRUK believes my research to be important and relevant. The substantial award will allow me to embark upon an ambitious project to identify genes involved in tumour progression. The five years funding, with generous support for research staff and running costs, is ideal for me as a newly appointed lecturer at The University of Nottingham as it will allow me to establish the laboratory and to focus my research in the hope of producing work of high quality and of high significance to human health.
"Our research uses the fruit fly (a small fly, which you may often find flying above your fruit bowl) to study cancer because it has many advantages over other cancer models. For instance we can carry out complex experiments relatively quickly and cheaply and by using the fly, we avoid using vertebrate animals for this research."
The aim of the CRUK-funded project is to improve understanding of the early steps of tumour development, i.e. how tumours develop from a benign state to malignancy, and to identify the genes involved. This is important as tumour progression to malignancy is the major cause of death in the majority of human cancers.
Dr Georgiou and his team have developed a system that combines the powerful genetic tools of the fruit fly with state-of-the-art live cell imaging. Using this system, cancer cells can be followed in unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution as the tumour progresses in the living animal. This will allow them to characterise the precise molecular and cell biological events that lead to the development of a malignant tumour.
This process is likely to be complex, involving concurrent dramatic changes in numerous aspects of cell and tumour biology. The eventual hope is that as genes involved in these fundamental biological processes are highly conserved between flies and humans, any genes identified in this project as affecting tumour progression are likely to be relevant to the human disease and therefore will be good targets for further investigation.
Dr David Scott, Cancer Research UK's director of science funding, said: "Having 10 awards available sends out the important message that Cancer Research UK is serious about supporting new scientists at the start of their careers."
Professor Margaret Frame is chair of the panel of world-renowned cancer experts that helped to select these scientists and science director at the Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre. She said: "It was highly competitive and we ended up with an excellent set of individuals. Now Cancer Research UK will nurture their talent and their passion for cancer research.
"I am always amazed by the breadth of wonderful new innovation and ideas that I see at these interviews. The funding from Cancer Research UK will give these ten scientists the time and resources to take on challenging problems in cancer. It will be exciting to see what comes out of these projects over the next few years. I look forward to watching them develop their own independent careers and join the next generation of cancer research leaders in the UK and internationally."
Source: University of Nottingham