We fund the work of Professor Ahmed Ahmed at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford. His work studies the molecular mechanisms that cause ovarian cancer cells to grow so that new targeted drugs can be used. In 2016 Professor Ahmed was awarded the `International Scientist of the Year' award from the United Arab Emirates Genetics Diseases Association (UAEGDA) for his work on ovarian cancer. He studied for his medical degree in Egypt, and now lives in Oxford with his wife and
Describe a typical day at work. How do you divide your time between patients/the lab?
I get a quick breakfast, typically a bowl of cereal and my must-have cappuccino! I walk to work and I'm usually there about 9 am, unless it is a clinical day, in which case I start at 8.
I do one clinic every other week and one full day theatre session every other week. My clinical work is focussed on ovarian cancer and I spend the rest of the time in the lab. I strongly believe in the abilities of my research team and I enjoy working with them and discussing science.
How did you get this job? What were you doing before?
I took up the role in Oxford in 2010. I was invited to give a talk about my research work that I was doing in Professor Bob Bast’s laboratory in the MD Anderson Cancer Centre. I was then invited to apply for the position when the post became available.
What made you want to research ovarian cancer?
I think ovarian cancer is the most fatal, and in spite of a lot of progress there is still lots more that needs to be done. There are two main issues, the first is late presentation and the second is resistance to chemotherapy – these are the two things that my research group are trying to battle.
What is your most memorable work moment?
There are so many memorable moments in science. The gratifications are by no means instant, following a lot of hard work, but when a discovery is made, the feeling is on a different scale. The potential to discover something new that might explain how a disease behaves is a privilege that scientists have. One such memorable moment is when we discovered that SOX2 expression was very high in the apparently normal fallopian tubes of patients with ovarian cancer or those who are at high risk of developing the disease. The potential implications are substantial and may result in the development of screening tests for detecting ovarian cancer at a pre-cancer stage.
What keeps you motivated on a hard day?
Sometimes you hit a dead end in the lab and you just have to go home. But the desire to help women with ovarian cancer definitely keeps me going.
One of my patients was only 22 years old and unfortunately she was diagnosed with a very rare form of ovarian cancer that was resistant to chemotherapy. Her love for life and hope was so inspirational, and thankfully she is still living with the disease. I still think about what could be my next weapon to help her battle ovarian cancer.
What is the best part of your job?
The potential to make scientific discoveries that could help save lives. In my work, such discoveries also have significant implications in solving mysteries about cancer initiation and behaviour. This can, therefore, have significant implications for making much needed advances in the way we prevent and treat cancers.
Who inspires you?
Professor Bob Bast, MD Anderson Cancer Centre, for his discovery of CA125 and for his exceptional dedication to science. And, of course, the women for whom all my research is conducted.
What do you dream of achieving?
What I would love to do is find a way to detect ovarian cancer earlier and make it possible for more women to live with, and not die from, ovarian cancer. These are my two ideal aspirations.