Lara Graham is in her first year of the Centre’s integrated PhD programme, which will hopefully pave the way for an exciting career in cancer research.

She was drawn to the four-year programme at Southampton due to the University’s international reputation for cancer research that makes a difference to people’s lives.

She said: “I wanted to undertake my PhD at Southampton due to the world-class research in cancer immunology and the outstanding facilities. As the Faculty of Medicine is based at the hospital, I have access to a wide range of tissue sources from the blood donation unit, the patient tissue bank and an animal unit, which I would not have if I were studying at another institution less well integrated with clinical work.

The research at Southampton is heavily focused on translational research. This is the most important thing to me as the ultimate goal of medical research in the lab is to positively impact the clinic.

Lara Graham, PhD student

Lara is currently on her first of three rotation projects in different laboratories, which take place alongside taught modules to develop research skills including statistical knowledge, bioinformatics and critical analysis of literature.

She is testing a different type of antibody, which could improve efficacy over an antibody immunotherapy currently in the clinic by being less susceptible to resistance mechanisms.

This research could result in a new antibody immunotherapy treatment that could be beneficial in a higher percentage of patients and will work for a longer period of time. Lara is already seeing exciting results.

“My research utilizes primary human blood cells obtained from the blood transfusion unit at the hospital which makes it very translatable to use in humans. This was an aspect of the project which really excited me – working with primary human blood cells is more physiologically relevant than cell lines,” Lara explained.

“Already, the different type of antibody has been shown to be less susceptible to resistance mechanism in mouse studies. If we prove this trend is true in human cells in vitro, this will give confidence that the different type of antibody could be therapeutically beneficial in human patients and would inform the development of new clinical trials to bring the different antibody to the clinic.”

Lara is the first recipient of the Daphne Wright Scholarship – a generous gift which will fund the four years of her PhD. Her final thesis will be chosen from one of the rotation projects she completes this year.

I’m really proud to be taking part in this vital research. With more research and development of better therapies such as the antibody I am studying, there is the potential to treat more patients and give them better outcomes.

Lara Graham, PhD student