Get to know your fellow cancer researchers! We spoke to Dr Sankari Nagarajan, who joined the Manchester cancer research community in July, to learn more about her past experience, what brought her to Manchester, and her research interests.
Can you tell us more about your new position in Manchester?
I joined the University of Manchester in July as a lecturer in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Function.
It’s been very interesting starting a new position in the midst of a pandemic! While my interview and appointment were confirmed before the pandemic, the timings have all had to shift because of the pandemic. I’m currently still in Cambridge working remotely, but eventually I’ll be based in the Michael Smith building once the university fully reopens and I finish setting up my lab group.
Until this time, like everyone else, I’m working from home, applying for research grants and securing the funding that will allow me to build my group.
What did you do prior to starting in Manchester?
Before this opportunity came up, I worked as a postdoc with Professor Jason Carroll on estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancers at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. It was originally a three-year position, but I had a slight extension to finalise a big piece of research published in Nature Genetics*, where we used CRISPR-screening to find that uncontrollable transcription of some genes is an important driver for drug resistance, especially endocrine resistance, in ER-positive breast cancer.
What really attracted me to come to Manchester was the cancer research environment. Having a world-renowned university, a core-funded institute, a major research centre and an excellent cancer-based hospital all in one place means there’s a lot of activity here. And this was how I actually was introduced to Manchester, I was already in contact and collaborating with Professors Andrew Sharrocks, Rob Bristow and Rob Clarke as well as Claus Jørgensen at the CRUK Manchester Institute.
What are your research interests?
The main theme of my work is transcription mechanisms in cancers to understand how tumours develop drug resistance and metastasis.
My research in Cambridge was primarily focused on understanding these mechanisms in breast cancer. However, I’m now looking to expand my research to include other areas with unmet needs, including pancreatic and oesophageal cancers, as well as prostate cancer.
What connects all of these disease sites is that they all have poor survival rates if the cancer has metastasised or has become drug resistant. Our understanding about the mechanisms of metastasis and drug resistance in these sites is still quite limited, and hopefully once this is understood, we can work to overcome resistance or combat metastasis and ultimately improve survival.
What have you been up to at the moment?
As the Michael Smith building has been closed due to the pandemic, I’m only able to do things that are possible from home! I’m spending my time preparing for the labs to reopen which is keeping me busy at the moment.
I’ve been learning more about the university and catching up on the processes and procedures, as it is very different to an institute. And there will soon be teaching and other commitments that I will get the chance to take up in the near future. What’s taking up most of my time is building my new lab group. I’ve been kept very busy completing grant and fellowship applications to fund positions and also working with the Doctoral Academy to recruit PhD students.
And other than that, I’ve been meeting and greeting (which is much easier to do over Zoom), meeting new people and discussing potentially new collaborations. If anyone wants to get in touch, I’d really like to hear from you, and you can reach out via: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Nature Genetics, 2020, 52(2), 187-197