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Thanu Alaguthurai

Thanu Alaguthurai

I am interested in understanding the human immune system and how it is often challenged during conditions such as cancer. My Biomedical Science degree at St George’s followed by a Master’s at King’s further fuelled this curiosity, and I began working for the ICVI research team in October 2014. I am a research technician who is working on the effects of the drug Zometa on tumour cells.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used to kill growing cancer cells but not all cells are destroyed. Over 50 years ago, a small group of cells called cancer stem cells were found within various cancer populations. These cells have the ability to resist cancer treatments, thus they proliferate and repopulate cancers. My work involves characterising these cells in colorectal, lung and prostate cancers in addition to identifying how differently they respond to Zometa. This is a drug that has previously been used in prostate cancer patients to prevent problems they develop with weak bones. We are studying the re-purposing of this drug to manipulate the immune system. The question here is whether the stem cell population possesses a distinctive immune profile when compared to non-stem cells and whether Zometa can be used to modify that immune profile. If cancer stem cells are different to normal cancer cells, we can target both types of cells with conventional cancer therapies combined with immunotherapy – and decrease the likelihood of cancer relapse.

My post is funded by the ICVI and I am delighted to join the team and would like to thank all the charitable trusts and ICVI supporters who help to fund my work.

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