The Ninewells Cancer Campaign is delighted to be able to support 3 young cancer researchers based in the Jacqui Wood Cancer Centre by funding a unique PhD programme.

Dr Adrian Saurin was awarded the Leng Trust PhD studentship, to help develop his research programme on cell division – Adrian’s student is Magda Reis.

I was recently recruited to Dundee to set up my own research group with the help of funding from the Ninewells Cancer Campaign. It’s hard for me to describe just how important this type of support is for a young scientist like myself. It has allowed me to tackle big questions that I hope will lead to the results that will kick start my career. That’s the beauty of funding like this – it can be worth so much more in the long run because once your career is up and running it’s much easier to generate the money from other sources in the UK and Europe. Getting to that stage is the difficult part and the help of the Ninewells Cancer Campaign has made it a whole lot easier for me.

I’ve really enjoyed my first year at the Jacqui Wood Cancer Centre and we’ve been fortunate enough to make some exciting new discoveries already about how cells divide safely without errors. This is particularly important from a cancer perspective because most cancer cells fail to do this, which is part of the reason they can adapt so well and become resistant to chemotherapy. We’re about to send our first paper from the lab in the coming few weeks about this before starting on another project to try to develop a new approach to specifically kill tumour cells.


Originally from Porto in Portugal, where I obtained my first class Honours degree in Bioscience followed by a postgraduate degree in Health Sciences, I moved to Dundee to start my 3-year PhD in Cancer Research, funded by the Ninewells Cancer Campaign, under the supervision of Dr Adrian Saurin. I am currently on my first year of the degree based at the Jacqui Wood Cancer Centre. My research focuses on understanding what mechanisms control the process by which cells divide aiming at understanding how cancer cells manage to surpass this safeguard mechanism and therefore proliferate in an uncontrolled manner.

The experience of moving to a different country has been so far great and working in such a friendly but hard-working environment, with state-of-art facilities and with cutting edge research at the Jacqui Wood Cancer centre has been great and very motivating!!


Dr Laureano de la Vega has joined us from Spain, via Germany, with his student Laura Fernández Torrente

I am interested in how cancer cells adapt and become resistant to chemotherapy (one of the major obstacles faced by cancer patients), and I am trying to find new factors behind this phenomenon. I believe that understanding what is happening in chemoresistant cancer cells will help us to find new therapies in order to tackle this major problem.

I started my own group in the Jacqui Wood Cancer Centre some months ago, and Ninewells Cancer Campaign has been instrumental helping me to start my research. At this stage in my career it is difficult to get major funding, and it takes time. NCC has provided me with the kind of support that has allowed me to continue my research and develop new ideas that could lead to important discoveries and attract major funding in the future.


I am Laura Torrente Fernández, a first year PhD student from Barcelona, Spain. I studied a bachelor's degree in Biomedical Sciences and a master's degree in Biomedicine in the University of Barcelona. I wanted to focus my professional career on medical investigation, specifically in the field of Oncology. Ninewells cancer campaign gave me the opportunity to pursue my goal starting my PhD in the Jacqui Wood Cancer Centre under the supervision of Dr. Laureano de la Vega. My investigation is focused on understanding how cancer cells adapt to oxidative stress since such adaptation often leads to acquisition of a chemoresistant phenotype. Uncover the mechanisms linking oxidative stress and apoptosis could give us new targets for cancer treatment that may open doors to the development of new drugs. NCC support not only allowed me to continue my training as a researcher doing a doctoral thesis, but also to move to Scotland, which has been an amazing experience since the very beginning. To conclude, I would like to thank the NCC, I am really grateful to be part of this team.


Finally, Dr Marios Stavridis, together with his student Tanja Domke, is working on specialised cancer stem cells.

I am interested in the biology of stem cells and how these cells make decisions to multiply or to change into other, “differentiated” cell types. Stem cells are specialised cells in the body that are responsible for making almost all other cell types in each organ. In recent years it has become clear that many tumours either start in stem cells or result in cells that behave like them (they are called “cancer stem cells”). It is therefore very important to understand how stem cells are controlled so that we can then begin tackling the uncontrolled growth of cancer stem cells. We are particularly intrigued by the problem of how the cells make sense of all the signals they receive from their environment. Cancer cells do not respond to these signals in the normal way and this makes them grow uncontrollably, so it is very important to understand how this happens before we can think about targeting it for therapy.

I am indebted to the Ninewells Cancer Campaign for funding this project. We had some interesting preliminary data but this funding allowed us to make substantial progress with this project in the last few months. Our first paper from this project has just been accepted for publication and this will allow us to apply for further funding to continue and extend this work.


I came to Dundee in October 2013 to take up the NCC studentship in Marios’ group. Prior to this I studied for my Master’s at the University of Hohenheim in Germany, where I worked on a project on cancer stem cells. This raised my interest in studying the important link between stem cells and cancer, so I wanted to continue working in this field for my PhD.

I’ve really had an amazing time during the first months of my PhD in the Jacqui Wood Cancer Centre, which is a great place to do science. Working on stem cells with a view to cancer is challenging and rewarding at the same time. I am very lucky to have the possibility to work on a project that exactly meets my research interests. My work gives me the feeling of making a valuable contribution to our understanding of stem cell signalling and the consequences in cancer.




Lady Fiona Fraser and Aubrey Wood learn about the latest research from the NCC-funded PhD students.