A new generation of cancer researchers took to the stage at London’s Guildhall as The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) – a Member College of the University of London – held its first Awards Ceremony since 2019, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It provided an opportunity to celebrate the success of our graduating students from the last three years, making it our largest ceremony ever.
At the ceremony, we recognised the hard work and achievements of 79 PhD graduates and 29 MD(Res) students, as well as 29 students who graduated with an MSc in Oncology and 101 students who achieved other postgraduate awards in Oncology.
We also awarded honorary degrees to Dame Deborah James and the team behind the You, Me and the Big C podcast, Nobel Prize winner Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe, and former Chief Executive of the ICR, Professor Peter Rigby.
Recognising outstanding achievements
We presented eight Chairman’s prizes – our top prize for PhD students over the past three years – to Lewis Au, Matthew Clarke, Elisa Delgado, Somaieh Hedayat-Husseyin, Hugang (Geoffrey) Feng, Elisa Fontana and Konstantinos Zormpas-Petridis, and MD(Res) students Lavinia Spain and David John Magee. This prize recognises the outstanding contribution the student has made to the scientific knowledge in their field.
For example, Lewis’s work has laid the foundations for new tests to predict which patients with kidney cancer will benefit from anti-PD1-based immunotherapies. He also made a major contribution to the understanding of immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes Covid-19) in cancer patients, helping to shape the management of people with the disease during the pandemic.
Lewis said: “I feel incredibly honoured to receive this prize – but it is also a reflection on the guidance from my mentors, and the resilience of my lab mates, clinical colleagues, and collaborators on these team projects given all the uncertainty introduced by the pandemic during the PhD. It’s been challenging as I’m sure is also the case for all my fellow graduating students – so many congratulations to the class of 2022!”
Our "class of 2022" included Dame Deborah James, Lauren Mahon and Steve Bland, presenters of the You, Me and the Big C podcast.
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Geoffrey’s project has shed new insight into the underlying molecular mechanisms involved in driving the development of certain kidney cancers with a common tumour suppressor gene loss. He then demonstrated how these kidney cancers might respond well to a combination of radiotherapy and immunotherapy, which could ultimately lead to a new test to personalise treatment for patients.
Geoffrey said: “When I heard that I’d won a prize, I felt excited that my efforts were being recognised – and I also felt lucky as it must have been a tight decision. I will take the prize as another starting point and as motivation to pursue better research outcomes in the future. Currently, my future plan is to stay within the cancer research field, with a focus on early cancer diagnosis and personalised therapy.”
We also awarded three Professor Alan Horwich Prizes for outstanding achievement to graduating students from our MSc in Oncology programme: Asad S Mahmood, Lorna Kviat and Rebecca Shakir.
This taught course is designed to educate medically qualified doctors specialising in oncology on the theory and practice of cancer science and advanced treatment – all for the benefit of cancer patients.
Asad said: “It was quite a surprise to receive the prize! I’m grateful to my thesis supervisors for their guidance and support – and to the MSc administration team for all their help throughout the course. My advice for future students is to make the most of the MSc by taking your time and working through the whole course at your own pace whilst balancing it with your other clinical, career and personal commitments.”
Rebecca said: “I’m extremely grateful to have received this prize, and proud of being recognised in this way. I have gained a huge amount of diverse knowledge, including the core scientific principles behind our specialty, the evidence for the treatments we offer, the ethical and personal aspects of oncology, and research principles.”
Professor Clare Isacke, the ICR's Academic Dean, said:
“We’re incredibly proud to recognise the accomplishments of our graduating students, all of whom have worked so hard to achieve the goal of contributing new knowledge to their chosen field of research – particularly in light of the significant additional challenges many have experienced during the pandemic.
“In the future, many of those graduating will become leaders in their chosen careers, and we hope that what they have learned here will help them tackle the many challenges they will face. The ICR is proud to have played a part in their education and training and wish them well as they embark on the next stage in their careers.”