University of Dundee

Scientist awarded over £1 million to bring cutting-edge cancer research to Dundee

06 Oct 2016

A talented international scientist has been awarded £1.35million from Cancer Research UK to bring her ground breaking research into how tumours develop to the University of Dundee.

Dr Constance Alabert is one of only three researchers this year to have been awarded a prestigious Career Development Fellowship by the charity.

Originally from France, Dr Alabert is currently based at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. The funding will allow her to set up a research group at Dundee to study if the mechanisms cells use to maintain their identity and function during and after cell division – for example how skin cells remain skin cells – play a role in how cancers develop and grow.

One of the ways cells control whether genes are turned ‘on’ or ‘off’ is by placing epigenetic ‘tags’ on their DNA. But when cells are dividing, these tags are removed, meaning they need to be put back once cells have finished dividing.

Dr Alabert and her new team will seek to identify and understand the mechanisms cells use to put the tags back in the right place after cells have divided, and to find out whether they play a role in tumour development and growth.

She said, “We know that epigenetic ‘tags’ are important in controlling when cells grow and divide. But little is known about how these ‘tags’ are replaced after cell division or about the role – if any – this ‘replacing’ plays in tumour development. By understanding the mechanisms that replace these tags, we are hopeful we can identify new players in tumour development that have the potential to lead to new therapies.”

“It’s a great honour to have been awarded this fellowship from Cancer Research UK. Throughout my career the aim of my research has been to understand how cells work at a very fundamental level, so applying my work to help find out more about cancer brings a very human aspect to my research which is fantastic motivation for me.”

Cancer Research UK awards Career Development Fellowships to outstanding scientists to support them in establishing their own independent cancer research group.

World leaders in research have been discovered through the charity’s Fellowship Awards and the work they produce is of the highest international quality.

Karen Noble, Cancer Research UK’s head of training and fellowships, said, “To ensure we make a real difference in our fight against cancer, we need to recruit the best people and help them grow at every stage of their career.

“Our fellows make crucial discoveries that increase our fundamental understanding of cancer and help develop innovative new cancer medicines, tests and treatments.”