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Urology Cancer Research and Education (Oxford)


Human Immune Discovery Initiative (HIDI) fund

Ashwin Nandakumar

DPhil Student

  • DPhil student representative.
  • Athena Swan committee representative.

Research Summary

I am a third-year DPhil student researching the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axis in prostate cancer.

Aberrant IGF signalling is known to contribute to the growth and progression of various cancers. People with high blood circulating IGF-1 levels are at an increased risk of developing cancers of the prostate, colon, lung and breast. Conversely, subjects with deficiencies in IGF-1 production are protected from developing cancers. IGF-1 functions by binding and activating IGF receptor 1 (IGF-1R). The Macaulay lab has shown that IGF-1R is overexpressed in cancers and its nuclear translocation (figure) often associates with an aggressive tumour. My research aims to investigate how high circulating IGF-1 could influence cancer risk by regulating components of the tumour microenvironment.

IGF-1R expression in prostate cancer cells

© AM Nandakumar
Prostate cancer cells contain high levels of IGF-1R (green stain). Its expression can also be seen inside the nucleus (blue stain). Actin cytoskeleton marked with orange stain.


Before joining Oxford, Ashwin completed his BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science at Kingston University, London. For his final year undergraduate project, he worked with Dr. Natasha Hill to investigate the effects of microRNAs on oncogenic splice variants of SPARC, a matricellular protein over-expressed in pancreatic tumour stroma. He furthered his interest in oncology by undertaking a research internship at TATA Memorial Cancer Centre, India. Prior to this, he joined the oncology department at the University of Oxford as an MRes student before transferring into his DPhil.

How to apply for a DPhil in Oncology


Oncology Student Network (OSN)

The OSN encompasses all the DPhil and Master’s students in the Department of Oncology. It is also responsible for organising student seminars, networking and career events, and social events for the students in the department. As student representatives for the Oncology Department, Ashwin and Florian work together with the Athena Swan committee and graduate studies committee to promote equal representation and progression and improve the course of study.