Research students come together in global fight against cancer
PhD students from across the world have combined to work together on pioneering cancer treatment research at a special summer research school in China.
The school is the first such collaboration between King’s College London, Keio University, Tokyo, and Peking University, Beijing and has seen graduate students pursue a special global course programme in a number of areas. This has included frontier research on tumour suppressor genes, breast cancer genetic susceptibility and stem cell research, among other topics.
Those involved from King’s said the school, held in Beijing, was an important initiative and a key part of increasing collaboration with Chinese universities and other international partners and building links for medical research and education.
Professor Arnie Purushotham, Chair in Breast Cancer, King’s College London and Director of King’s Heath Partners Cancer Centre said: ‘The summer school is intended to allow the sharing of ideas between faculties, members of the universities and to allow students to collaborate freely with their counterparts while doing research and development. The experience for the students is tremendous – mixing with students and colleagues from the faculty during lectures while also experiencing hands-on lab research experience in a completely different country and culture.’
The summer school follows a Memorandum of Understanding signed between King’s and Peking University Health Sciences Centre (PUHSC) last year, and a medical and health delegation visit earlier this year by King’s to top universities in China. The visit tackled the global health challenges facing UK and China national health systems including cancer, and the challenge of caring for increasing ageing populations.
The topic of the summer school rotates, as does the host country and the next summer school will be held at King’s. Three King’s students attended this year’s summer school with three students from Tokyo and 10 from PUHSC.
For Johnathan Watkins, a third year PhD student in Cancer Bioinformatics at King’s, the short summer school had quite an impact.
‘It was my first time in China. So culturally, it was very new and interesting, and academically, to see their research culture and environment. It was very similar in the sense that they want to produce excellent academic research but there were a lot of things which were different.’
He said that he was surprised to see the large size of the Chinese labs and how well resourced they were with embedded specialist facilities.
‘There were a lot of people within a group and the labs were big and a lot more self-sufficient,’ he said.
One outcome of working so closely with his Chinese counterparts was that Johnathan was asked to be a co-author on a paper and is now keeps in regular touch.
There is also the possibility for future work in China – something he says he is keen to explore.
‘As a result, there is something that could last beyond the summer school and beyond my PhD-which is great,’ he said.
Further collaboration on cancer research was seen during the week of the summer school with a joint symposium in Beijing between King’s Health Partners Cancer Centre and Peking Cancer Hospital. Potential opportunities to take advantage of funding from the recently announced Newton Fund for China-UK joint innovative research and improving health locally and globally were discussed and are currently being explored.