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JRA student Lekshmy contributes to breast cancer research

JRA student Lekshmy Balakrishnan at work in the lab for her breast cancer research project

Mature student Lekshmy Balakrishnan is already in training to be a doctor, but her passion for clinical research led her to a JRA laboratory project on breast cancer treatment.

“I was keen to get back into the lab,” says Lekshmy, who already holds a doctorate and has experience of post-doctoral research work and who is about to enter her third year as a medical student at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), “as I would like to practice medicine in combination with clinical research.

Lekshmy’s JRA project was carried out under the direction of Peter Schmid, Professor in Cancer Medicine in BSMS.

“The JRA offered me the opportunity to hone my practical research skills, which I can’t fit in during the very busy term timetables that medical students have.”

Lekshmy’s JRA project involved a molecular study of the development of drug resistance to chemotherapy in human breast cancer. Breast cancer patients often develop resistance to their cancer drugs leading to treatment failure. Lekshmy studied the development of resistance to Lapatinib, a drug used in the treatment of advanced breast cancer.

Lekshmy says: “The hope is that if we know the molecular mechanisms underlying drug resistance in cancer, we may be able to screen for patients who are more susceptible to drug resistance and vary their treatment accordingly.

“I had to learn new techniques, which was challenging as well as rewarding. Early results show there are significant differences in the expression of the microRNA molecule between drug sensitive and drug resistant breast cancer cells.

Lekshmy’s results will contribute to laboratory publications and possibly be presented as a poster at an appropriate conference.

For Lekshmy, medical practice with scientific research is the ideal combination for a career: “Hopefully working with patients and trying to find better treatments for them will be more emotionally rewarding and intellectually challenging.”

Notes for Editors

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Last updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2012