“I walk for every name on the Tribute Wall at our research centre”

10 February 2017

On this year's International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Dr Paula Cunnea from the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre, explains what a typical day at work is like for her and why she supports our Walk In Her Name campaign.

"My name is Dr Paula Cunnea and I’ve worked in the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre for over 4 years in the Molecular Therapy Laboratory under the superb guidance of Professor Hani Gabra.

When I started, I was involved in an EU funded project, collaborating with excellent researchers located all over Europe. Along with the gifted academic surgeon Professor Christina Fotopoulou, I am now running a team of very dedicated Research Assistants, PhD and Masters students.

Our work is primarily focused on developing new ways to treat cancer cells and predicting how patients will respond to particular treatments. Since acquired drug resistance is an ever-looming threat in ovarian cancer, we are also focused on novel ways to overcome this in order this and improve patient outcomes.

Much of the work in our group is what we call translational research; that is our main aim is to “translate” the results of our research and hopefully see our efforts go from the bench to bedside for the treatment of ovarian cancer patients.

A typical day for me...

I wish there was such a thing! First things first I usually grab a tea and sit down responding to emails whilst listening to my favourite music on spotify. Luckily I have a spotify playlist to match my every mood! After that it is into the lab to check in with our hard-working research assistants and students. I also check in with Steve, our science and business manager, who keeps everyone in on the straight and narrow, a job that could be described as herding cats!

Later in the week we have a group meeting where we catch up and assess what progress has been made, plan further experiments and take note of recent interesting developments in the field.

My day is typically occupied with managing on-going projects, planning and overseeing experimental work, discussions with collaborators, preparing grant applications for future funding, preparing papers for publication, and keeping up to date with new developments in cancer research.

I grab a quick lunch with other researchers from the OCARC, where the conversations can range from experiments, research, food, to the recent developments concerning Brexit and Trump. Since we are a very international centre that relies on European and Global scientific cooperation recent events are very troubling for the future of cancer research.

Why do I “Walk in Her Name”…

At the OCARC we have a Tribute Wall where patients or families and friends of patients can put the name of their loved one as a permanent remembrance for them. We also meet the families when they come to the OCARC to see the wall and tell them about our research that is funded through their amazing fundraising efforts.

The Tribute Wall is a source of motivation and inspiration for us scientists working in the centre, as we pass it multiple times a day and it reminds us of why we are here; to work to improve the outlook of women with ovarian cancer. So, I walk for every name on the Tribute Wall, and hope that through our research that the names become fewer and fewer."

Take action with Paula and organise your own Walk In Her Name in honour of a loved one affected by ovarian cancer. The money you raise will help Paula and her colleagues make progress at the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre. Register today for your free fundraising pack.