Arqum Anwar, who started his MRes research project in 2018 explains his research and why he applied to the CRUK Cambridge Centre for a non-clinical studentship...
What is your research project all about and what impact could it have on the way we understand, detect or treat cancer?
As part of the MRes year, I have the opportunity to investigate two different research questions, focusing on the cellular and molecular biology of cancer. My work in the Department of Biochemistry involves unveiling the cellular roles of the protein TCF25 by identifying interacting partners. Preliminary work has suggested an involvement of the protein in DNA damage repair, thus implicating a relevance to cancer biology which often involves faulty DNA damage repair.
My second project will be based in Pharmacology and will focus on the design on peptide-based PROTACs for cancer treatment. These are hybrid drugs that simultaneously bind to a target protein (e.g. oncogenes) and the cellular degradation machinery (E3 Ub ligases) allowing specific and rapid removal of specific proteins. I will particularly focus on harnessing the degraders involved in the cell cycle, thus providing specificity for cancer cells that undergo rapid proliferation.
What were you doing before you started your MRes?
Prior to my MRes I studied for a BA (Hons) in Natural Sciences at Christ's College, Cambridge. I opted for the chemical and biological subjects at the start of the course and eventually specialised in Pharmacology. During my undergrad, I gained research experience by participating in the AMGEN European Scholars Programme at Karolinska Institutet and undertaking a final year research project in Pharmacology.
Why are you interested in cancer and what do you see yourself doing after your MRes and then PhD?
I always knew that my interest in biomedical sciences is motivated by a desire to tackle human diseases. During my studies, I was heavily drawn to the paradoxical nature of cancer. As an incredibly complex yet worryingly common disease, cancer offers an exciting opportunity of understanding the aberrant underlying mechanisms, with a drive to produce therapeutic interventions with global and lasting impact. After my PhD, I wish to continue my career in translational cancer research.
Why did you want to study in Cambridge?
As an undergraduate, I was aware of the high standard of research in Cambridge and the vibrance of scientific community. With the expansion of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, including the relocation of AstraZeneca and the upcoming Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge is firmly establishing itself as a pioneering hub of biomedical sciences. The physical juxtaposition of academia, clinic and industry also translates to exciting collaborative projects, the likes of which will become increasingly important for addressing an intricate disease like cancer.
What are the best, and worst, things about being a graduate student here?
The best thing about the Cambridge experience is the possibility of surrounding yourself with inspiration. Often, this comes in the form of notable alumni, esteemed scientists or quality academic publications but sometimes a morning walk or a casual conversation with friends in College can do the trick.
As an international student from Pakistan, I do regret the lack of food places that can cure any feelings of homesickness!
Arqum's projects are part of the Cell & Molecular Biology Programme.