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We caught up with Dr Diana Zatreanu, who works in the Gene Function team based at the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, to hear about a typical day at the research centre. Diana was involved in the discovery of a new type of drug that could treat breast cancer with changes to the BRCA genes.
I’m a researcher in the team led by Professor Chris Lord. My role is to investigate the different ways in which tumours can become resistant to drugs called PARP inhibitors. I want to find new ways to treat breast cancer for when it becomes resistant to these drugs.
My project is mostly done in collaboration with a company called Artios Pharma. We’re studying a drug that blocks a protein called POLQ. Recently we’ve shown this drug works against certain cancers, leading to a new clinical trial. This has been my most memorable work moment.
In fact, this new targeted cancer drug could be used to treat breast cancer patients whose tumours have changes to the BRCA genes. BRCA genes usually protect us from developing breast cancer, however changes to these genes can increase a person's risk of developing the disease. Now, I’m testing if cancers can become resistant to this new drug, which could ultimately help to personalise treatment.
Typically, I spend the morning growing cancer cells in flasks and preparing them to be used in different experiments. The afternoons are mostly spent analysing experiments I set up and looking for signs of DNA damage and cell survival. Any spare time I have away from the lab bench, I like reading scientific journals to keep up with current findings in my field.
I love every part of my job, even when experiments don’t work. I like the challenge to figure out why they didn’t work and how to troubleshoot them. And like every scientist, I think the best part is discovering new things about the world and how our bodies work.
I think I’d try to combine my love for baking and games and would have opened a café or bakery in which you could also play board games.
This interview is from our Spring 2022 In touch newsletter. If you'd like to receive updates like this, plus other information on what's going on at Breast Cancer Now, be sure to sign up to recieve our newsletter by post.