University of Bolton student Dorcas Ishaya has been carrying out research which could help to predict more accurately whether oral cancer might return in a patient.

Dorcas, 21, was awarded a first-class honours degree in Molecular Biology.

As well as the top honour, Dorcas also successfully completed an innovative final year oral cancer research project, examining whether certain genes could be detected which would enable the medical profession to more accurately predict if oral cancer would return.

Dorcas, who hopes to attend medical school and become an Oncologist, said she had enjoyed her time at university.

Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world. Despite major technological and therapeutic advancements, the five-year survival rate of patients remains unchanged. For many years, cancer researchers have struggled to understand why this is.

Although many cancer drugs and treatments reduce the size of tumours, most cancers eventually relapse.

Recent evidence suggests that a small subset of cancer cells with stem-like properties are responsible for tumour initiation, cancer aggressiveness, treatment resistance, and tumour recurrence.

Dorcas said:

“I found the molecular genetics behind this physiological response very interesting.

In my project, I looked at whether a panel of nine genes indicated to have a role in growth and proliferation of oral cancer could be detected to allow us make a more accurate prediction of the likelihood of the oral cancer relapse.

Dorcas said that the results confirmed the potential involvement of specific genes which could be investigated further as biomarkers and therapeutic targets for oral cancer:

“The findings indicate that a combination of these biomarkers may be useful to predict the likelihood of oral cancer relapse.”

Fellow graduate Abusadat Abdullah, who has a passion for Molecular Physiology, presented his innovative final year research project at the University of Bolton’s TIRI Conference 2018.

Abusadat, 26, received a first-class honours BSc in Molecular Biology and presented a paper entitled ‘Signal Transduction: Molecular Genetic Responses to Starch Metabolism and Sugar Phloem Dynamics’.

He said:

“It was a great experience studying at Bolton, all aspects of it, and one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

The people I met, lecturers and students, were so friendly and I made so many life-long friendships.

At the University of Bolton I developed an interest in Molecular Physiology, the field that focuses on how molecular genetic mechanisms can be the cause of physiological processes and how these mechanisms are regulated.

Throughout the Medical Biology programme there is an emphasis on laboratory teaching, and students are encouraged to see how the blending of scientific fields and laboratory-based learning is essential to the training of a properly rounded medical biologist.”

Dr Ianis G. Matsoukas, Assistant Teaching Professor and Abusadat’s personal tutor and research supervisor, said:

“Our courses provide students with a sound grounding in all key scientific fields. In addition, our undergraduate students are encouraged to exercise leadership, initiative and responsibility and to appreciate the need for continual professional development.”

Abusadat, originally from Chittagong, Bangladesh, aims to complete a PhD and join the academic world as a Molecular Physiologist.

He said:

“I am very proud today that together with the completion of my undergraduate degree, I will have my first publication in a prestigious journal of molecular genetics.”

All undergraduate students studying Biomedical Sciences at the University of Bolton have a significant independent study component in their programme, especially in the third year when they undertake a compulsory research project module. In this project, students design, implement and write up their own piece of research.

Dr Matsoukas added:

“At the University of Bolton, we help students realise their full potential; not as passive recipients of knowledge, but as active researchers, analysts, critics and scientists eager to master increasingly challenging tasks.”

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