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Congratulations to Dr Wencheng Yin and Sophia Abusamra who were awarded winner and runner-up respectively in the poster presentation competition at the 2024 CRUK Oxford Centre – Oxford Cancer Symposium on Wednesday 13 March.

Wencheng Yin standing alongside his winning poster.

Dr Wencheng Yin is a Postdoctoral Scientist and Bioinformatician within the Oxford Prostate Cancer Biology Group at the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS). He was awarded first prize for his poster, Spatial transcriptomic clonal deconvolution identifies the ‘lethal clone’ in prostate cancer as defined by ability to metastasise to lymph nodes.

Prostate cancer is complex due to its many different subtypes, making it hard to predict disease progression and to make accurate decisions about treatment. In his study, Wencheng and colleagues collected 21 tissue samples from a patient with cancer, including both prostate and lymph nodes. The team used advanced spatial transcriptomics technology, allowing them to detect the entire genome at near cellular resolution. 

Using an inference approach that they developed from a single cell mathematical platform, the scientists identified patterns of metastasising clones – those areas in the primary cancer with a particular genetic composition which enable them to spread to the lymph nodes. They found that within prostate tumour, there are multiple different clones, each with unique characteristics, but with varying ability to spread. The team also found that some of these clones undergo further genetic changes when they arrive in the lymph nodes. 

'Understanding the clonal variation in prostate cancer is crucial to inform decision-making in prostate cancer – who needs treating and who does not, whether with surgery, radiotherapy or drug treatment,' said Wencheng. 'The research sheds light on the complexity of prostate cancer and may also provide useful targets for development of future drugs to combat the development and spread of aggressive disease.

'I am so happy to share my research with many people. I am always inspired by the shining eyes of those eager to learn more.'

Sophia Abusamra standing alongside her winning poster.Sophia Abusamra is a DPhil candidate and Clarendon Scholar within the Bone Oncology Group (NDS/NDORMS) and Oxford Prostate Cancer Biology Group at NDS. She was awarded runner-up for her poster, Circulating tumour cell isolation and enrichment methodologies for investigation of prostate cancer metastasis.

Sophia's topic of research is circulating tumour cells, or CTCs. CTCs are cancer cells that leave the prostate and travel through the bloodstream in circulation. These escaped cells can then land in different parts of the body to “seed” sites of cancer outside of the prostate, known as metastases. Capturing and analysing CTCs enables one to sample the tumour in a less invasive way than a traditional prostate biopsy, and offers crucial insight into how cancer spreads and progresses. Sophia works to catch CTCs from the blood of prostate cancer patients, and to study them in search of markers or “fingerprints” that can identify lethal prostate cancer. 

Speaking of her award, she said: 'I am grateful to have received this prize, as it allows me the opportunity to share this research that I am so passionate about with others, and affirms that the Oxford cancer community finds it exciting too. Prostate cancer is a highly clinically heterogeneous disease, and finding ways to detect the disease and risk-stratify patients early on is incredibly important. I would like to thank my supervisors and lab mates for their support which has allowed me to complete this research.'

The annual symposium, held this year at Oxford University’s Mathematical Institute, showcases the breadth of activity across the CRUK Oxford Centre and features cross-departmental or interdisciplinary partnerships supporting translational cancer research in Oxford.

For more details about the symposium, visit the CRUK Oxford Centre website