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From camels to sharks – searching outside the box for new cancer treatments

When we think of sharks we tend to imagine them with jaws wide, ready to bite us like in a scene from Jaws, we do not tend to think of cancer patients.  But Dr Helen Dooley likes to think outside the box and has discovered that sharks have a very advanced immune system. She wants to take advantage of this attribute to help develop new and better treatments for women with a type of cancer called HER2 positive breast cancer.

You can read more about her latest project in this quick and easy to read general summary.

We recently caught up with Dr Helen Dooley at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland to learn more about the sharks and her research journey.

She told us “I guess it is a bit unusual [to study sharks]. I actually started my doctorate intending to study a special type of antibody that had just been found in camels.  However when our collaborators went to take samples they discovered that someone had stolen our camels! Luckily at that point I read a paper by a research group in the US about the immune system of sharks and got really excited about that and the rest, as they say, is history!”

When asked what drives her to continue her research she confided in us “Having lost my own mum to cancer a few years ago I know first-hand how cruel a disease it can be. If my work significantly improves the life of a single person, either directly or by enabling some other scientist to do so in the future, then my hard work will have all been worthwhile.”

Read more from her interview in our blog.