Institute of Genetics and Cancer

Wellcome ISSF award for XDF Programme Fellow Dr Ava Khamseh

Dr Ava Khamseh has been awarded support through the Institutional Strategic Support Fund to advance her research on clonal expansion trajectories and mutational competition in early cancer: January 2020

Graphical summary of the work proposed by Dr Khamseh
Graphical summary of the work proposed by Dr Khamseh

Cross-Disciplinary Fellowships (XDF) Programme Fellow Dr Ava Khamseh has recently been awarded an Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) grant from Wellcome to carry out an interdisciplinary study that should improve a quantitative understanding of the necessary and sufficient early conditions and steps required for the evolution of normal cells into cancer cells.

The project, titled ‘Recurrent clonal expansion trajectories and mutational competition in a model of very early oncogenesis’ will use a tractable somatic mouse model of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) - the most common form of primary liver cancer - to trace clonal evolution at cellular resolution, over hours and days, via targeted single cell DNA and RNA sequencing. It will also develop a novel statistical approach to robustly quantify interactions between different mutations that lead to competition and cooperativity of cell populations.

Using DNA and RNA profiles from the same cells will help determine how these mutational signatures relate to transcriptional trajectories, leading to evolution of pre-neoplastic cell populations. The work will be undertaken in close collaboration with Luke Boulter’s and Catalina Vallejos’s labs at the IGMM.  

Wellcome’s Institutional Strategic Support Fund enables universities in the UK and Ireland to invest in areas that are of mutual strategic importance to Wellcome and the individual institutions. These are within and across medical and clinical sciences, public health, social sciences and medical humanities. At the University of Edinburgh particular emphasis is placed on supporting early career researchers and interdisciplinary projects.

About the Cross-Disciplinary Fellowships (XDF) Programme

The Cross-Disciplinary Fellowships [XDF] Programme at the University of Edinburgh partners the MRC Institute of Genetics & Molecular Medicine (IGMM) with the School of Informatics (SoI) to maximise new cross-disciplinary opportunities in scientific discovery at the Life Sciences-Computational interface and their translational and innovation impact.

The Programme has been designed to recruit analytically minded people from disciplines such as physics, mathematics and computer sciences to help solve some of the most challenging problems of contemporary biomedical research. The first recruits joined the XDF Programme in 2018, with second cohort recruited in 2019 and third group joining in 2020. Fellows integrate with the scientific community in Edinburgh and collaborate with colleagues at IGMM, across the University, and beyond.

The Programme is led by a panel of directors including Prof Chris Ponting (MRC Human Genetics Unit/IGMM), Prof Margaret Frame (Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre/IGMM), Prof Tim Aitman (Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine/IGMM), Prof Ian Tomlinson (Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre/IGMM) and Prof Jane Hillston, Dr Matthias Henning and Dr Diego Oyarzun (SoI). They are supported by Dr Arkadiusz Welman (Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre/IGMM) acting as scientific administrator.

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