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MP Thangam Debbonaire visits the School

Press release issued: 2 February 2018

The School welcomed MP for Bristol West, Thangam Debbonaire on Friday 2 February, to meet with researchers and explore the Schools laboratories, where cutting-edge cancer research takes place.

The University of Bristol has invested significantly in developing world-class facilities and attracting leading scientists in the field, making Bristol  - and its School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine - an international centre for cancer research.

Thangam was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, just weeks after being elected to Parliament. Her experience has led to her becoming a passionate Breast Cancer Ambassador with a keen interest in cancer research. She met Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellow, Grace Edmunds, at the Big Bang Bristol community event in July last year and was fascinated to hear about her work at Bristol on blocking the stop signals which cancers use to evade the immune response.

Thangam, a University of Bristol graduate herself, was welcomed by the new Head of School, cancer biologist Professor Anne RidleyFRS and Grace Edmunds. The tour included:

  • Visiting the laboratory of Professor Eugenia Piddini’s group, where fruit fly tumour models are used to study the impact of cell competition in cancer.
  • A demonstration of a high throughput fluorescence microscope in action in Professor Rafael Carazo Salas’ lab. The microscope allows researchers to image live cells over time, to investigate how human stem cells grow and develop in vitro and to improve tissue engineering techniques.
  • A visit to the Flow Cytometry Facility, to see how single immune cells are isolated from tumours to study the immune response to cancer.
  • CMM’s bioprinting facility for a demonstration of how 3D printing is used to print tumour spheroids (which mimic the structures of solid tumours). Dr Adam Perriman presented Thangam with a 3D printed cello – she is a keen cellist - as a souvenir of her visit.

After the tour, she dropped in to a teaching lab to see an undergraduate practical class, where first year students were studying the hallmarks of different cancers.

Following the tour, Thangam Debbonaire MP, said, “Today’s visit to the University of Bristol was truly inspiring and I feel proud that so much vital research is happening in our city. As someone who has had a cancer diagnosis, it was humbling to meet so many brilliant researchers who are absolutely committed to furthering our knowledge and understanding of this disease, and pushing the parameters of cancer research.”

University of Bristol Pro Vice-Chancellor for Health, Professor John Iredale, said, “The University of Bristol is proud to have so many talented and dedicated scientists working on pioneering cancer research. It was an honour to host Thangam Debbonaire and to have the opportunity to showcase our work and the significant investments we have made which make Bristol a leading centre for cancer research.

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