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Voice from the Lab: Dr. Elena Lopez-Jimenez

Elena is a Research Associate and is the current holder of the Jason Boas Fellowship at Imperial College. This is awarded to pancreatic cancer research, in memory of Jason Boas who sadly died from this disease aged 34 in 2008. During his year long illness, Jason set up an online network for young people suffering with cancer and raised £150,000 for pancreatic cancer research. His family and friends have continued to fundraise in Jason's memory, with a variety of highly successful fundraising events.

What motivates you on a day-to-day basis?

Jason is an example to us because he was a very altruistic and strong person, who in the worst moment of his life was able to make an effort and contribute to give other patients the opportunity of having better treatments.

Pancreatic cancer is a complex disease and has a very poor survival rate. This is because it is often diagnosed late due to an absence of symptoms in its early stages and due to the fact that current treatments are not very effective. I would like to improve the quality of life of these patients, as well as help clinicians to develop diagnostic and prognostic tests, and these are my goals that I keep in my mind each day.

What are you currently working on?

I am working to explore the role of an important protein called Dicer in pancreatic cancer. Dicer is involved in the development of small molecules in cells called microRNAs, that are very important in the regulation of genes. Dicer activity is known to be altered in several cancers and this has been shown to affect how aggressively these cancers behave, which can have an impact on patient survival. We believe that altered expression of Dicer could affect the levels of different microRNAs in pancreatic cancer, thereby creating an extremely aggressive form of the disease and we are working to understand this to inform diganostics and treatments.

Read more Voices from the Lab here: Dr. Neha Tabassum, Dr. Philip Lawton and Dr. Niklas Feldhahn.

Read about the first Jason Boas Fellowship holder here.

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