New investigations into cancer

Monday 24 March 2003

Scientists at the University of St Andrews have been awarded funding to look at the differences between cancer cells and normal cells using new optical methods.

The funding, supported by the MRC (Medical Research Council), EPSRC (Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council) and the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), will allow a new collaboration between scientists in different disciplines.

Dr Andrew Riches from the University’s Bute Medical School has developed a model to induce cancer in human cells in the test tube, and these cells will be investigated using novel advanced optical laser systems developed by Dr Kishan Dholakia of the School of Physics & Astronomy.

The £51,424 funding will be provided through the Discipline Hopping Award, which is supported by the three funding bodies. The objective of the Discipline Hopping Award is to provide short term support to pump-prime new collaborations between scientists in different disciplines. In this case, Dr Riches (a medical scientist) and Dr Dholakia (a physical scientist) were successful in obtaining funds to develop new ideas and collaborations.

The grant will enable two individual lines of research to come together in a way that would not be possible by each individual group alone.

The collaboration will utilise the expertise Dr.Dholakia has developed in using novel advanced optical laser systems to image normal and cancer cells to define signatures for them.

“Cells can be trapped and moved using laser beams, optical tweezing, and both the inside and outside of the cells imaged to try to identify differences between normal cells and cancer cells,” said Dr Dholakia.

“This can be carried out on live cells using low power lasers so there is no damage induced to the cells and thus they can be investigated using non-invasive methods,” he said.

Dr Riches’ model to induce cancer in human cells will allow the study of both normal human cells and cancer cells derived from these normal cells to be studied in the test tube.

“We are able to grow normal human cells in culture and treat these with agents that cause cancer and thus study the process of cancer development,” said Dr Riches

The funding will also support a postdoctoral fellow, Lynn Paterson, who has already been undertaking research at the physical / medical science interface on her PhD programme.

“The long term objective of the group is to open up major advances in imaging methods for cancer cells which in the future can be translated to the bedside for the benefit of the patient,” said Dr Dholakia.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Dr Andrew Riches is available for interview this morning on 01334 463603 or email acr1@st- . Dr Kishan Dholakia is available all day on 01334 463184 or email [email protected]


Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email [email protected] Ref: riches dholakia hopping award 240303 View the latest University news at

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