Making sense of big data on small molecules

Dr Hector Keun, at Imperial College London, will use his £126,050 grant from Prostate Cancer UK to recruit a PhD student to carry out a full-scale analysis of the wealth of data now available about a new class of biomarkers, called microRNAs. The aim is to unlock the power of microRNAs to distinguish aggressive cancers from low-risk ones and to tell us which is likely to be the best treatment for an individual man’s cancer.

MicroRNAs are small products of genetic material that can influence when and where particular genes are turned off or on, affecting cell behavior. They can act on their own, or work together to regulate a biological process. These microRNAs can be found in blood and urine and are getting increased attention from prostate cancer researchers because of their apparent importance in driving prostate cancer growth, aggressiveness and/or treatment response.

There are so many of these molecules and so many potential combinations, that we haven’t really got to grips yet with the power of the information they could hold. This PhD student aims to change this by gathering information from researchers around the world and using the latest statistical analysis and computer modelling techniques to extract as much information about these microRNAs as possible.

Dr Keun believes this could be a really rich source of information to understand which prostate cancers are aggressive, and which might respond best, or be resistant to, certain types of treatment.

Grant information

Reference - TLD-S15-005
Lead Researchers - 
Dr Hector Keun
Institution - Imperial College London
Award - £126,050

PhD student - Sharmila Rhana