Dr Diego Sanchez-Martinez
Clinical Research Training Fellow
Meet Dr Diego Sanchez-Martinez. He is a Clinical Research Training Fellow in the Translational Oncogenomics group at The Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute. This article first appeared in The Christie Fellowship Newsletter, Issue Three, originally published in January 2024, read this issue on our website.
What is your fellowship specialism and where were you based before joining The Christie?
I am a histopathologist from Paraguay and have obtained my medical and specialist degrees from the National University of Asuncion in my home country. I was trained as an academic researcher by Dr Antonio Cubilla, a Paraguayan histopathologist who devised the current World Health Organisation classification for penile squamous cell carcinoma, a field which I continue to work in. Before joining The Christie, I studied at Johns Hopkins University for a MSc in bioinformatics and worked there at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Centre, researching the role of non-coding RNA in human cancers for two years. After returning to Paraguay, during the COVID 19 pandemic, I worked at my alma mater as a consultant and lecturer in histopathology.
What attracted you to The Christie?
When you search for “The Christie Hospital” on the internet, “the largest single site cancer centre in Europe” is one of the most impressive quotes you come across. After further investigation online, it is striking to see the seamless integration of The Christie with the University of Manchester and CRUK through the Manchester Cancer Research Centre. It is clear to see that The Christie works hard to cover every aspect of cancer research, to not only treat patients with cutting-edge approaches, but also to provide the best environment for understanding the complexity of this group of diseases.
I am working in penile cancer research, an under-researched disease that is most frequently observed in low-income and underdeveloped countries with lack of patient or government advocacy. This setup has hindered the understanding of this cancer’s underlying biology and, consequently, the development of tailored medicine approaches.
The Christie is part of a Penile Cancer Supra-network serving the population of north west England, accruing a population equivalent to the total population of my home country. Such centralisation ensures a cohort of homogeneously managed patients with accurate diagnoses, the best standard of care, and consistent follow-up, making The Christie a unique institution with the capability to drive this research in both basic and translational medicine from bench to bedside.
I have enjoyed the opportunity to discuss ideas with different people who are always willing to give you their perspectives on the subject. The diversity in backgrounds ensures every idea and every problem can be tackled from different angles, which promotes a holistic view of the disease as well as the patients.
Dr Diego Sanchez-Martinez
What have you enjoyed most about your fellowship?
I am a CRUK-funded clinical research training fellow, meaning that my full-time commitment to research is leading to the completion of a PhD. This unique setting takes advantage of The Christie’s multidisciplinary environment; I have had the opportunity to work with consultants in histopathology, urology, and oncology, as well as interacting with researchers from cell biology, and biomarkers to translational oncology.
This multidisciplinary attitude, not only in the clinical aspect of medicine but also in the scientific diversity with researchers in basic and translational research, is embedded in the core of the institution. The collaborative environment makes a rich soil for development of ideas and fosters excellence in research while always keeping in mind improvement of patient outcomes. The aphorism “Medicine is Art and Science” is something you not only feel but live while working here.
What I have enjoyed the most from this experience is the opportunity to discuss ideas with different people who are always willing to give you their perspectives on the subject. The diversity in backgrounds ensures every idea and every problem can be tackled from different angles, which promotes a holistic view of the disease as well as the patients.
What has been your biggest achievement?
Every single step I am taking, from overseeing the ethics, selecting the cohorts, going through the biobank application, reaching the diagnosis, planning the experiments, and analysing and interpreting the data, requires commitment and direct involvement from my end. Being able to perform such tasks under the care of accomplished supervisors gives you the confidence to embark in a career where complexities could be overwhelming. Acquiring the tools to improve myself and feel confident in this environment driving my own project is the biggest achievement I have accomplished here.
What advice would you give to other Fellows to make the most of their time at The Christie?
Take advantage of having colleagues with both clinical and research experience collaborating in the same place. Do not miss any opportunity to share your ideas with them, whether it is about your own project or about what they are doing. All points of view infuse fresh air in the development of your project and, subsequently, your career. Be open to every opportunity to network with your peers, and ultimately enjoy every step you take here.