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Pint of Science 2016: from precision medicine to Tasmanian Devils

by Laura Mears | Analysis

22 April 2016

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From the 23rd of May, some of our researchers will be swapping their lab benches for bar stools as they join the Pint of Science festival. For three days, scientists, doctors and research nurses will be sharing their work through informal and interactive talks, bringing some of our latest science out of the lab and into pubs up and down the UK.

Now in its fourth year, Pint of Science is the brainchild of Imperial College neuroscientists Dr Praveen Paul and Dr Michael Motskin. It began in the UK, and has since spread across the globe to become the world’s largest festival of public science talks.

Our researchers are no strangers to this unusual form of science communication, and this year they are back for more. This is the lineup from north to south.


In Scotland, our researchers are coming out fighting for their night, “Glasgow vs Cancer” on Tuesday 24th May in The Butterfly and The Pig.

Dr Louise Stephen from our Beatson Institute will be exploring how we can boost ‘search and destroy’ tactics employed by the immune system to target cancer cells.

Dr Christine Dufès, from the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, will be talking about nanomolecules extracted from an unusual source in her talk, “Green “TEA”rapy, a new weapon against cancer”.

And Dr Luke Tweedy, also from the our Beatson Institute, will round the evening off with a mathematical twist in his talk “Skinny Genes”, which will focus on how patterns, such as spots and stripes on big cats, develop in the natural world.


The Newcastle team is dedicating their evening on the 25th of May to “Calling time on cancer and inflammation” at the Bridge Tavern.

Dr Vicky Forster, cancer survivor turned award-winning researcher will be exploring the success stories of modern cancer treatment (plus a bit of discussion around alternative therapies) in a talk titled, “The evolution of cancer treatment”.

And Dr Rachel Williams, from UCL, will focus on the 2000-year history of inflammation, showing the audience how research is helping to find new ways to tackle it.


Our researchers in Birmingham will be discussing research at the cutting edge of cancer science on the 24th of May at Bodega. Their evening, “Revolutionising how we treat cancer”, will explore the ways that we can use our natural defenses to fight cancer cells.

Lymphoma expert Dr Heather Long will delve into “The science behind the headlines of new cancer immune therapies”, and Professor Gary Middleton, who’s leading the National Lung Matrix Trial, will be discussing matching treatments to individual patients in his talk, “Cancer immunotherapies and precision medicine – changing the face of cancer treatments.”


In Cambridge, Dr Sarah Bohndiek will be “Shining a light on cancer” during a technology-themed evening at The Architect on Wednesday 25th May. Under the title “Tech4Life – Tech4All”, she will explain how her team are moving beyond traditional cancer imaging methods using X-rays, gamma-rays and radio waves, and are instead turning to visible and infrared light.

Joining her on the night are Google’s Lead Technical Solutions Specialist, Nasser Saleem Ahmed, who will be talking about machine learning, and University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory researcher Dr Eiko Yoneki, who will discuss mathematical modeling of infection spread.


In the capital, the Tamesis Dock will be taken over by researchers from Imperial College on Monday 23rd of May for a night centerd around “Protecting our body through diet and the immune system”.

Our very own Dr Amanda Cross will be on hand to explain the links between food and cancer in her talk “Diet and Cancer Prevention”, offering insights into what to eat and what to avoid. And, junior researchers from Anthony Nolan will be talking about boosting the immune system’s natural ‘snipers’ so that they can take on cancer cells.


In Southampton, the Pint of Science team will be exploring the devils and angels of cancer research at The View on Monday 23rd May.

The ‘devils’ will be introduced by Dr Hannah Siddle from the University of Southampton, an expert in a type of cancer that is threatening to wipe out Tasmanian Devils in Australasia. And the ‘angels’ will be represented by doctors and nurses working with cancer patients in the local University Hospital.

There will be a behind-the-scenes look at cancer surgery with Mr Tim Underwood, and an introduction to cancer clinical trials from our research nursing team, led by Jac Samuel. The team forms the critical link between our lab discoveries and cancer patients, and they will be sharing their experiences in this vital role in a talk titled, “CRUK nurses: at the bedside of clinical trials patients.”


And finally, our Southampton research team are taking their work on the road to Portsmouth on Monday 23rd of May at The Barley Mow to discuss “Progress in Cancer Research”.

Dr Edd James from our Southampton Centre will join Professor Geoffrey Pilkington from the University of Portsmouth for a night exploring the latest advances in brain cancer and immunotherapy.

Dr James will show the audience how cancers hide from the immune system in his talk, “Awakening the force: the immune system enters the cancer battle”, and will explain how recent advances have led to the development of new therapies.

Professor Pilkington will then discuss how new research is allowing treatments to be targeted and personalised to cancer patients like never before.

Laura Mears is a research engagement manager for Cancer Research UK