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Queen Mary researcher named future leader in cancer research

Dr Sarah Martin, lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, is one of two recipients of this year’s Cancer Research UK Future Leaders in Cancer Research Prize.

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Dr Sarah Martin with Dr Harpal Kumar
Dr Sarah Martin with Dr Harpal Kumar

The prize, awarded at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Liverpool, recognises early career researchers who are already showing the potential to become world class leaders in their field.

Dr Martin’s work has focused on investigating DNA damage repair as a target for new cancer therapies. Her research into a process of DNA repair, the DNA mismatch repair pathway, has shown that cancer cells missing the MSH2 gene were sensitive to the chemotherapy drug called methotrexate. This has led to phase II trials in metastatic bowel cancer patients lacking the MSH2 gene.

Her work now is looking at ways of targeting the so-called ‘power houses’ of cancer cells, the mitochondria, as she discovered that mismatch repair may also operate on mitochondrial DNA. This research is already beginning to yield promising results.

Dr Martin, based at the Barts Cancer Institute, said: “I’m delighted to receive the Cancer Research UK Future Leaders Prize. Understanding how cells can normally repair damage to their DNA is vital to learning more about cancer. Cancer cells can have defects in these repair pathways, and we are looking to target these defects to develop new treatments for cancer.”

The Future Leaders Prize is one of three Cancer Research UK Prizes that recognise world leading cancer researchers and the scientists of tomorrow. The other awards are the Lifetime Achievement Prize and the Translational Cancer Research Prize.

The prize winners were selected by an international panel of cancer experts who were looking for researchers already demonstrating the potential to make future key discoveries to transform our understanding and treatment of the disease.

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive at Cancer Research UK, said: “This award recognises Dr Martin’s achievements in investigating DNA damage repair as a target for new cancer treatments and her great potential to become a leader in this field. Targeting DNA repair is an exciting field of research which is already leading to new drugs to tackle the disease.”

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