Characterising linear peptide motifs in the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 & BRCA2, Dr Andrew Blackford
What is the current status of your project?
At the moment, most of what we would normally be doing is on hold because we are not able to get into our lab to do experimental work at the bench. However, some of the work for our project such as data analysis can be done from home, so it’s not like the whole project has come to a halt, thankfully.
Do you have ‘disaster recovery’ or similar plans to assist you to restart your project?
Yes, the administration teams responsible for running the building our lab is in have put together detailed plans for our return to work, which will hopefully be towards the end of June.
What are the key issues you expect to face?
One of the key issues we will be facing is how to maintain social distancing to create a safe working environment for everyone in the lab. This will mean limits on the number of people allowed in the lab at any one time, so even when we are able to go back to work, we will not be able to do quite as much benchwork as before.
We also expect there to be difficulties in getting hold of specific chemicals and lab consumables as there are currently national shortages of certain items due to the sudden spike in demand due to the scale of COVID-19 testing currently underway.
Do you think you will be able to make up the time lost in having to pause the lab work side of your project?
I hope so, we will do everything we can to make sure we hit the ground running when we return to the lab to tackle the important questions in breast cancer research.
What will be the long term impact the pandemic will have on your work?
Very little I hope. But we have to be realistic, there will be less money to spend on scientific research in general, both from governments and from charities in the coming years. This will mean that obtaining funding for future projects will be a lot more competitive and it’s possible that some of our grant applications will not be funded as they might have in the pre-COVID-19 world.
The Effect of Metformin on breast cancer metabolism, Dr Simon Lord
My translational studies focus on using genetic profiling of human cancer samples to better understand the differences in the character of breast cancer in obese women and those of normal weight, resistance to treatment and to match the biology of cancers to imaging signatures.
Whilst we have been able to move forward with some analysis of existing data (for example from the imaging studies), we haven’t been able to collect further samples since lockdown was announced, all clinical research that isn’t of the highest priority has been put on hold.
We have been putting in motion applications for additional funding and collaborations to provide additional resource for sample collection. We also spent this ‘downtime’ to get ethical approval with a view to increasing the number of clinical metabolic measures we carry out on patients to match to the biology of their tumour samples.
On a practical level we plan to increase sample collection rates once it is feasible to recommence collection. Much of the analysis we carry out is of big data which can continue to be done remotely.
We will lose time with regard to sample collection but I am confident that the long term goals will be met and while there may be some delay in outputs from these projects I believe that ultimately the quality of the outputs will not be compromised nor will the impact be severe.
“Against Breast Cancer’s funding remains critical to our work and whilst there will be a short hiatus we do not believe that this will have long term consequences.”
Dr Simon Lord