Mengying Wang

Diabetes, obesity and cancer incidence

Manchester Cancer Research Centre | Mengying Wang

The China Scholarship Council (CSC) Innovation platform with Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine (SJTUSM) is a funding initiative with the defined aim to support the internationalisation vision of double first-class universities and double first-class disciplines. Manchester is a key partner in this platform and has teamed with SJTUSM to take on Chinese students in specific fields.

In essence, Chinese students have their tuition fee waived by The University of Manchester and receive a stipend from the Chinese Government to cover the cost of their following three years of study.

We speak to Mengying Wang, a new PhD student from China, who was successfully appointed to the programme following the March 2022 recruitment cycle. Her research is focused on diabetes, obesity, cancer incidence and cancer-related mortality in Chinese populations.

In cancer, there is a huge gap between basic research and the clinical problem, and I would like to work towards addressing this gap. I would like to look at the growing burden of obesity and diabetes in the Chinese population, specifically in the rural areas of China.

Mengying Wang

PhD student at The University of Manchester

Please could you explain your research background?


I am from China and I studied at Shanghai Jiao Tong University for my master’s degree in Oncology. During my master’s degree, I did a lot of laboratory work and some experiments on the mechanisms of proliferation and metastasis of malignancies, specifically glioblastomas.

I wanted to continue working in cancer research, and so, when I found out about a cooperative project between Shanghai Jiao Tong University and The University of Manchester, which is funded by our government, I decided to take up this amazing opportunity and come to England for a PhD.









Manchester Cancer Research Centre | Mengying Wang

Please could you provide an overview of your PhD?


I am currently a PhD student within the Division of Cancer Sciences. My PhD project, supervised by Professor Andrew Renehan, is focusing on the research area of diabetes, obesity, cancer incidence and cancer-related mortality in Chinese populations. This work includes data from two large cohorts of the Chinese population and will begin by looking at the overall incidence of all cancers linked with diabetes and obesity. We will then move on to look at some specific high-risk cancers that are associated with diabetes and obesity such as pancreatic cancer.

The partnership that The University of Manchester has with China in this research area means that we have access to large pools of data, and so we can even develop this research in the future to look at cancers such as colorectal – a field Andrew is interested in – and breast cancer – which has a higher risk for females that are overweight or obese.

Why did you choose this particular PhD?


In cancer, there is a huge gap between basic research and the clinical problem, and I would like to work towards addressing this gap. I would like to look at the growing burden of obesity and diabetes in the Chinese population, specifically in the rural areas of China.

I saw this PhD project as being very relevant to the future treatment and management of cancer. There is growing evidence of the association between diabetes and obesity with cancer incidence and mortality in other populations.

Despite great advances in clinical cancer treatment through improvements in surgical procedures and drug use, there is still a way to go to upgrade cancer management. If we are able to identify the adverse effects of diabetes and obesity on cancer outcomes, we would be able to personalise treatment plans for those cancer patients with diabetes. Additionally, if obesity does play a role as a mediator between diabetes and cancer, long-term weight management would show great benefits in cancer care. Both of these measures are particularly meaningful for public health promotion considering China has a rising burden of both diabetes and obesity over the past several decades.

Why did you pick Manchester for your PhD?


The University of Manchester has a great reputation in China and across the world, and so this was a great opportunity to get a scholarship on the innovative platform. There are a lot of international students from all over the world here, and especially a lot from China so you can tell there’s a real appeal to come here. The chance to experience a different culture and to collaborate with researchers from different parts of the world also really drew me to Manchester.

Additionally, as this innovative path is a separate platform provided to the students in SJTUSM, the process was much simpler and easier than the typical routes of applying for a UK PhD. Previously, the process was very long and arduous, so having this platform really encouraged me to apply.

Another important reason is my supervisor. We first met at the interview and he’s very kind and knowledgeable and I was assured that he would be able to really support me over my next three years of development. He’s very serious and passionate about this research area, and that is exactly what made me feel like I would have a great background for the basis of my PhD research.

What are your long-term career ambitions?


It’s difficult to know exactly what I will end up doing, but after graduating from this PhD, I would like to become a clinical doctor. In China, when you want to get into a good hospital, it is quite important that you have a PhD, and so for me, this is a really crucial step to get where I would like to go.

I think being a clinical doctor appeals to me as it’s a long-term career and you keep learning your whole life from patients, colleagues and other researchers, which makes it really appealing.

How does it feel to be involved in cancer research?


Cancer is a big problem for people all over the world and our research is trying to link the basic research to the clinical transformation. So, I think this work is really very meaningful, and even if can contribute to a small part of this field, we are doing the right thing and helping research to move in the right direction.

How have you found Manchester as a place to study?


So far, I have found studying here has been a casual and relaxed experience in relation to the way you approach your research. You really have the freedom to pick up a comfortable style to study. If you have any courses that you feel would benefit your studies, then you can take a selection of online and face to face courses. The supervisors are also incredibly helpful and ensure that you get all the help you need to do your course.

What would you recommend in Manchester?


Although I have only been here for a very short time, I have already found lots of fun things to occupy myself. Manchester as a city is home to lots of museums and art galleries that I love to visit as well being the home to two premier league football teams, meaning I have been able to go and watch live football games.

I think I adapted to the environment here more quickly than I thought, and I didn’t really experience any feelings of homesickness. I think having friends from China here helped, and two of my flatmates are Chinese who are both PhD students so that made me feel a lot more settled.

I also love the fact that the countryside is so close by. Living in a metropolitan city meant I previously had very few opportunities to explore the outdoors, but now I’m in such a fortunate location. There is the Peak District national park right on our doorstep, and the Lake District is only a short train ride away, meaning that you can easily go on adventures nearby.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to take a PhD?


I think firstly, you need to have a passion about your current research. Doing a PhD is a very long and sometimes lonely journey, and you will have to face a lot of obstacles by yourself. So, having that drive to keep going when times are tough is really important.

Secondly, I would say that a PhD student needs to be independent and innovative. You will need to be highly adaptable and explore different ways of thinking throughout the duration of your PhD to be able to get the best results from your research.

You will get a lot of support and help from your supervisors and colleagues, but you need to be able to identify failures and know when to ask for help.

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