Shining Stars Series: 1
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of us in some way. At Cancer Research Wales, the pandemic has resulted in our income dropping by around 50%, which means that we have less to invest into cancer research for the years ahead.
This Christmas, we must keep the spotlight on cancer – for Wales, for cancer patients, and for the future. In our latest blog mini-series, we’re hearing from some Cancer Research Wales funded scientists about how they have had to adapt their working patterns during the past few months, and what their research will look like from now on.
Research is the light in the darkness, and our researchers are our shining stars!
Today, we’re speaking to Dr Nick Wreglesworth, who like many medically trained researchers, found himself returning to clinical duty in the NHS, to help with the response to the initial pandemic.
Hi Nick! Firstly, can you tell us a little about your Cancer Research Wales funded project?
I am 5 months into a 3 year PhD project under the supervision of Ramsay McFarlane in Bangor University. I am a medical doctor working in Oncology, and through my PhD I want to facilitate effective working in the ‘translational gap’ between basic laboratory science, and clinical healthcare provision.
Over the next three years I will be working on an exciting group of genes, the cancer testis antigen genes that could have potentially significant roles to play in all aspects of cancer care from early diagnosis to therapeutics. Within this, I will be involved in functional and bioinformatics analysis.
Covid-19 arrived quite early on in your PhD work. How has your research project been affected by the pandemic?
In April during the initial surge, when new temporary hospitals were opening and big corporations were making ventilators at pace, my studies were suspended. It felt wrong to not offer to return to clinical duties and with the support of Cancer Research Wales I returned to clinical practise full time for 4 months.
You’ve been used to clinical practice previously, but how has your work changed during the lockdown period?
Clinically the work has changed considerably. I work in oncology and within the media there are lots of stories of how clinical practise has changed. For me, conducting the vast majority of your care via the phone has been the biggest change.
After the initial crisis period, I am now returning to work at Bangor University. As you would expect, labs are taking every necessary precaution to ensure the researcher’s risks are low.
What has been your experience as a scientist during a global pandemic?
In daily life talking about ‘R’ values and ‘spike proteins’ have become pretty normal. Although it is early in my academic training I have brief experiences of the uncertain nature of antibodies, and so watching the government updates on the testing and validation progress was interesting.
How are you feeling about your research going forward? Do you think there are any positives to be drawn from your experiences this year?
I am excited! I feel like in the first 5 months of my research project, I was getting my ideas and thoughts together. During the ‘break’ of these 4 clinical months, although I have been busy, it has allowed me to consolidate my learning, and means I return with some clear aims for the short and medium term.
We’d like to say a huge thanks to our researchers for taking time out of their schedules to chat to us. If you’ve enjoyed this blog, you can read about more of our shining stars here (#2) and here (#3).
Cancer hasn’t stopped for COVID, and it won’t stop for Christmas. With your help we can continue funding innovative research like this right here in Wales. If you’d like to make a donation, please visit: www.justgiving.com/campaign/beashiningstar
Dr Lee Campbell, Head of Research at Cancer Research Wales
“A successful cancer treatment – now that is surely a Christmas present worth giving”