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Dr Vladimir Kirkin

Dr Vladimir Kirkin is a Team Leader in Cancer Pharmacology and Stress Response in The Institute of Cancer Research, London’s Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit. His team studies how anti-cancer agents interact with their molecular targets to stop tumour growth and metastatic spread, and how tumours respond to stress to design new, effective anti-cancer drugs.

Talk us through your typical day:

Each day I work in one of several of the multidisciplinary project teams that are discovering potential new cancer drugs.

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I'm usually in a meeting coordinating the next key experiment or discussing the work with my colleagues in the lab or office

Another exciting part of my work is working with students and Scientific Officers on developing new therapeutic concepts. Therefore, a proportion of my time is also dedicated to staff supervision as well as preparing scientific publications and grant submissions.

Alongside that, I am also busy with various administrative tasks, such as preparing myself for a number of boards and committees I am part of at the ICR.

What are you currently working on?

Together with the highly experienced members of my team and the talented students, we are simultaneously active in multiple oncology projects to develop new therapeutic concepts and profile drugs that are developed at the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit.

In one project, I am trying to demonstrate the value of manipulating the process of autophagy, where cells effectively eat themselves, in order to make cancer cells sensitive to different forms of stress that could help to kill them and fight the disease.

In another, I am providing pre-clinical data for a drug candidate that holds promise for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and some forms of leukaemia. Additionally, I am supporting the characterisation of a number of other drug candidates that are found at different stages of development.

How does your work contribute to our mission?

Everyone at the ICR is working towards making cancer a problem of the past, by making the discoveries that will one day defeat cancer. As part of the drug discovery and development team, I hope my work is at the core of that aspiration.

What are you most proud of?

I came to the ICR two years ago to manage a team of highly qualified scientists who had already contributed to discovering drugs such as carboplatin and abiraterone.

Today, I am proud to see this team of professionals further develop their capabilities, taking on new tasks and acting as one highly motivated and productive team. No drug at the Cancer Therapeutics Unit can reach clinical development without our active support.

Can you give us any examples of where you see the ICR's values in your work?

In order to be able to make new discoveries, my team has to act together and collaborate well. By improving the working standards of my team constantly, for example by implementing the electronic lab notebook, my team and I aspire to excellence. My work on advanced drug discovery projects and the role of autophagy in cancer is leading innovation and makes a difference in moving us towards our aim to improve the lives of people living with cancer.

Who do you collaborate with at the ICR and elsewhere?

At the ICR, I collaborate closely with all the other Cancer Therapeutics Unit Team Leaders on drug discovery projects, as well as across the broader ICR research community – in particular with Professor Nicola Valeri and Dr Anguraj Sadanandam.

Outside the ICR, I actively collaborate on work around autophagy with Professor Ivan Dikic who works at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Zvulun Elazar of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and Terje Johansen from the Tromso University in Norway.

What makes you want to work for the ICR?

The ICR provides the opportunity for a unique combination of milestone-driven drug discovery alongside the academic freedom to work on new concepts. It is also a place where basic, translational and clinical sciences can work perfectly together to deliver on the hopes of cancer patients.

What's your favourite part of your job?

My role gives me a perfect balance between my scientific endeavours and managerial commitments – and the opportunity to embrace and instil my creativity daily in my work place.

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