The complexity of innovative lab research can mean it's a difficult thing to visualise. So our photo competition aimed to see through the eyes of the researchers themselves. Nanomedicine innovator, Dr Wafa Al-Jamal tells the story behind her winning image.

17 Oct 2019
In - Research

Dr Wafa Al-Jamal, winner of our Research Revealed photography competition, spoke to us about how she set out to depict a single moment that can shape the outcome of potentially life-saving prostate cancer research.

Innovative cancer research excites us more than anything else. It's in the lab where breakthroughs happen that can change medicine and eventually save lives. But the complexity and pain-staking time put into lab research can mean it's a difficult thing to visualise. That's why we kicked off our Research Revealed competition, to see through the eyes of the researchers themselves.

Last year we asked our funded researchers to submit images that best creatively summed up their research. We received a host of fascinating images which were shortlisted by a professional panel, including the Director of Research, Dr David Montgomery and CEO of Prostate Cancer UK, Angela Culhane, as well as design and communication experts. With nearly 50 entries for the two awards, there was fierce competition.

Dr Al-Jamal’s winning piece below depicts her post doc, Amalia, looking through a microscope lens in their lab for their Prostate Cancer UK- funded chemotherapy research project. Dr Al-Jamal was also shortlisted for the Judge’s Choice Award with her image of a hydrogel, a type of nanoparticle that she is testing as a new way to deliver chemotherapy, so the chemo is contained in the pores and then released out into the bloodstream.

We wanted to capture what we do in the lab day-by-day and demonstrate the link between the people behind the science and the research.

- Dr Al-Jamal


Dr Al-Jamal’s exciting research is looking into better ways to deliver chemotherapy to prostate cancer patients. Standard chemotherapy currently can’t tell cancerous cells apart from healthy ones and can cause serious side-effects. Her project is designing an innovative technique to target chemotherapy drugs directly to the cancerous cells; making it more effective and reducing side-effects for men with prostate cancer.

For all researchers, there is a lot of unseen work, sacrifice and many hours spent in the lab behind the scenes before research breakthroughs make it to men. Dr Al-Jamal’s research involves growing prostate cancer cells in the lab and testing new ways of delivering chemotherapy to them. This type of research can be particularly challenging because the culturing of the cells is a very time consuming and intricate process.

She wanted to capture the single moment as a researcher where looking down the microscope can determine if the hours and potentially weeks of hard work growing and experimenting on the cancer cells has been worth it.

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and sometimes weeks of experiments just to capture a single picture.

- Dr Al-Jamal


The researcher in the image, Amalia, ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­won the chance to attend our Research Advisory Committee meeting, where we bring experts together in the prostate cancer research field to review all the latest applications for research funding, and work out where our money is best invested.

Through the Research Advisory Committee meeting, Amalia was able to learn more about how we fund our research and use this to help her write more competitive grant applications in the future. As she explained “Attending the Research Advisory Committee was very helpful for my career development - I came out with tips and ideas on putting together research applications but it also gave me the opportunity to network with fellow researchers. I would highly recommend this competition to early career researchers.”

Thanks to your support, we have been able to fund ground-breaking research like Dr Al-Jamal’s to make sure that one day, no man dies of prostate cancer.

The 2019 Research Revealed competition will be launching again today. Researchers like Dr Al-Jamal will once again be in with the chance to showcase their research through the art of photography. Keep an eye on Prostate Cancer UK social media for your chance to vote in this year’s competition.

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