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Sam Dunkley

BSc (Hons) Cancer Biology and Immunology

Research Masters Student - Oncology

Cellular senscence is a natural process designed to limit the replicative ablity of cells to divide. For cancers cells to achieve immortality they must increase their capacity for replication, through extension of DNA structures known as telomeres. 85% of cancers use increased expression of the enzyme telomerase in order to increase telomere length. The alternative lenghtening of telomeres (ALT) pathway accounts for increasing telomere length in the remaining 15% of cancers. As this pathway is a distinct process in cancer cells it offers a promising avenue for therapeutic intervention.

My research investigates the role of the RNA transcript TERRA in ALT.  Telomeric repeat containing RNA (TERRA) has been reported to increase in ALT cancers. The aim is to investigate whether TERRA upregulation is a bystander effect or is directly facilliating recombination in ALT. This may present TERRA as a therepeutic intervention target.

My work involves the use of commercial cancer cell lines combined with standard molecular biology protocols including microscopy, immunohistochemistry, ALT specific assays and northern blotting.