Non-clinical PhD student profile - Katie Young 2017 cohort

Katie Young

Katie Young, who started her PhD research project in 2017 explains her research and why she applied for to the CRUK Cambridge Centre for a non-clinical studentship award...

What is your research project all about and what impact could it have on the way we understand, detect or treat cancer?

My project focuses on understanding the role of the putative tumour suppressor PTPRK in colorectal cancer. PTPRK is a cell surface protein that can mediate cell-cell communication through its phosphatase domain – an enzyme that can remove phosphate groups from other proteins to influence cell behaviour. It was recently identified as part of a cancer-causing gene fusion in a subset of colorectal cancer patients, yet is very poorly characterised. To discover the role of PTPRK in these cancers I will be using a range of approaches including cell biology, mouse genetics and 3D miniaturised models of the intestine known as organoids. Learning more about both the basic biology of PTPRK and its role in cancer could reveal new approaches to alter cancer growth through the manipulation of receptor tyrosine phosphatases.

What were you doing before you started your PhD?

I was at the University of Leeds studying a Masters in Biochemistry during which I carried out a research project looking specifically at the impaired response to DNA damage in haematological disorders such as Myelofibrosis.

Why are you interested in cancer and what do you see yourself doing after your PhD?

Cancer biology has always fascinated me because of its endless complexities and the fact that there is so much more to discover about the intricate interactions that take place before, during and after malignancy arises. After completing my PhD, I hope to further my scientific career by undertaking post-doctoral research in a field of oncology.

Why did you want to study in Cambridge?

I wanted to study in Cambridge as the research in the cancer biology field is at the cutting-edge and the University is renowned for its world-class science. In particular I was drawn to the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, where I am based for my PhD, as it puts a strong emphasis on fundamental basic research in order to understand the cellular basis of disease.

What are the best, and worst, things about being a PhD student here?

The best thing about being a PhD student here is the support network in the institute and through my college. There is also access to a plethora of expertise and world-class facilities on the Cambridge Biomedical campus. In addition, interdisciplinary collaboration is very much encouraged both within and between different institutes. The worst thing is probably the size of Cambridge, it’s a very different city compared to Leeds!