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Open Day 2019

Guest blog from Anna Tompkins who attended the Oncology Open Day, Wednesday 3 April 2019

On Wednesday the 3rd of April 2019, myself and 30 other students, from Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, attended the Oxford University Oncology Open Day at the Cancer Research Centre, Oxford.

 The Open Day was really insightful, illustrating the fundamental importance that research has on modern medicine. The work we saw was inspiring and the people we met crucial to the ever advancing and continuously transforming topic of oncology.

 We started the day off with a 45-minute talk from some of the key members of the research centre, who play a vital role in its work. This included the OCTO (the Oncology Clinical Trials Office), who gave us a brief introduction to Oncology, as well as explaining the purpose of clinical trials and their aims and an Admissions counsellor from Oxford University itself, eradicating many common myths as well as walking us through the complex application process.

 We were then released into a myriad of stalls, each with diverging outlooks on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, focusing on the different types of cancer that can take place within the body.

 Oxford University is one of the world's leading research centres for Oncology. Before attending the Open Day, I was unsure as of what to expect, however I was taken aback with the diversity of the stalls and speakers available. It not only benefited my understanding of the research taking place within Oncology, but also the University itself. For example, Jessica Prince, a 5th-year Medical Student from St John's College was on hand to answer any of our questions regarding studying medicine at Oxford. She provided us with a unique insight into what life is like as a university undergraduate and gave us vital top tips in order to enhance our UCAS applications.

 The scientist I spoke to was Jessica Buck. Jessica is currently working towards her PhD in Oncology at the University of Oxford. She and her team are undertaking research into MRI scanning. Presently, MRI scanning in hospitals can only detect tumours the size of a small cherry, however, Jessica and her team are looking at ways in which you could potentially detect tumours the size of a grain of salt. This can be done by using nanoparticles of iron which bind to antibodies. These antibodies attach to the blood vessels surrounding the tumour which can be picked up by the MRI scan and a route of treatment can be found in order to effectively remove the tumour, therefore increasing the patient’s chance of survival. Research has successfully been undertaken in mice and is now advancing to clinical trials which will involve patients.

 This research is revolutionary to the medical advancements in our society. Early detection of brain tumours is imperative in the success of treatment within neuroscience. More often than not it is too late and the tumour which needs to be removed is too large, resulting in further illness, potential brain damage and possible death.

 Once I had started talking to the scientists and researchers, I soon realised that there is not simply one cure for cancer. This might seem a very obvious statement and within the first few minutes I soon realised how oblivious I had been. Considering the hundreds of different cancers, different treatments and effectiveness of each, it is almost impossible for there to not just be one simple drug. To find a cure for cancer, all types of cancer, is an almost impossible feat. Soon after this realisation, I started to question the researchers as to whether they believed a cure for all cancers could be found. This proved to be a controversial topic of conversation and the answers varied greatly. I felt as though this emphasised the vastness and complexity of cancer - even to the professors and scientists who are advanced in their field.

 Overall this was an incredibly interesting day and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in a career intertwined with either medicine or scientific research. Both the students and speakers were especially informative and the concepts talked about unique and profound, as well as being crucially important to the work that we, as future medics and researchers will be sure to come across. It is a first-hand insight into the new and modern advancements in the medical field, enabling us to witness the beginnings of the next medical breakthroughs presented by some of the best researchers in the country. It has not only opened my eyes to the vast range of research that is taking place, but also provided me with a much deeper understanding of the vast range of research that is involved within Oncology, which I will carry with me into my further education and hopefully my future career!

 We would like to thank Martin and his team at the Department of Oncology for their help and support on the day, as well as providing an open day which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.