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03 November 2020

King's researcher awarded UKRI Fellowship to look at imaging strategies for better understanding cancerous tumours

Dr Simon Poland has recently been selected as one of the UKRI’s Future Leaders and will receive substantial support to develop novel optical imaging strategies that enable complete interrogation of cancer tumours, allowing for an understanding into how cancer cells dissociate from the primary tumour and invade the surrounding cells.

Simon Poland UKRI Fellowship

Cancer is one of the major causes of deaths worldwide and despite improved understanding and development of treatments, many advanced cancers are still incurable. Most of these deaths are due to metastasis, where cancer cells escape the primary tumour and colonise other parts of the body. The mechanisms that underly this process are not fully understood and require the development of new biological models that can mimic cellular interactions within these complex tumour ecosystems.

Until now most of our understanding of the basic molecular principles of cancer has come from experimentation with single layer 2D cell culture models. Whilst inexpensive and easy to image, they are not representative of the way cells actually interact in an in vivo environment. 3D cell cultures (i.e. spheroids) have gained great significance in recent years as they can provide a much more realistic environment to simulate biological interactions and can lead to the development of new and effective anti-cancer therapeutics.

Building on previously conducted research at King’s College London, my team and I will develop the functional imaging platform for high-speed 3D imaging. Collaborating with several cancer research scientists at King’s, tumour spheroid cultures will be constructed to closely imitate the tumour microenvironment and several key interactions between cancer cells, other constituent cells and the extracellular matrix in the tumour microenvironment will be investigated.

Dr Simon Poland, Research Fellow, School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences

This research has the potential to change the whole landscape of 3D cell culture, providing a platform to image interactions, which in turn will facilitate the development of more sophisticated spheroid models to mimic in vivo cancer conditions. This will facilitate the construction of more complex spheroid structures to mimic in vivo conditions and has enormous potential to aid in the development of specific anti-cancer therapies revolutionising patient treatments and outcomes. The subject matter of the fellowship has some potentially wide-ranging implications and would have a significant impact on the life science research community and society.

I am extremely honoured to be awarded such a prestigious fellowship from UKRI. This future leaders fellowship provides me with the ideal platform to develop my vision and build my team. The support and long-term flexible funding offered enables me to tackle these difficult and novel challenges which would be somewhat more difficult to obtain funding through traditional routes and I am very excited for the opportunities ahead.

Dr Simon Poland, Research Fellow, School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences

The fellowship is held at the Comprehensive Cancer Centre within the School of Cancer and Pharmaceutical Sciences headed by Professor Tony Ng at King’s College London. As part of one of the leading cancer research centres in Europe, the centre has a multidisciplinary research portfolio which spans the entire patient cancer journey. Dr Poland is anticipating benefitting greatly from the existing infrastructure in place and all the resources at the centre and his research will be extremely beneficial to several other groups within the department.

About UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships

One hundred and one research and innovation leaders of the future have received significant government support to tackle major challenges ranging from cancer treatment to space travel and reducing harmful vehicle emissions.

The fellows, based at UK universities and businesses, will be supported through an investment of £109 million. The Future Leaders Fellowships scheme is designed to establish the careers of world-class research and innovation leaders across the UK.

For more information, please visit UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowship.