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Aleksandra Bielen

Aleksandra Bielen

Completion date: 2011

Aleksandra (Ola) is a recent Institute of Cancer Research graduate, having completed her PhD in Paediatric Cancer in 2011. Ola joined the Paediatric Oncology Group in the Division of Cancer Therapeutics following work as a Higher Scientific Officer at the Cancer Research UK, Clare Hall Laboratories. Under the supervision of Dr Chris Jones, she completed her PhD entitled, 'Mechanistic and preclinical studies of IGF1R inhibition in paediatric cancers.'

After studying Microbiology as an undergraduate in Poland, Ola moved to London to gain research experience and was attracted to the ICR to further her career. "One of my main reasons for applying was that the ICR is a world-class academic research centre, offering supreme opportunities to build a rewarding career and to work with some of the brightest people in research. Additionally, I wanted to work in a place where I could do translational research and the ICR is one of the few places that gives you that opportunity thanks to its relationship with The Royal Marsden."

Once at the ICR, Ola investigated the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) as a therapeutic target in the paediatric cancers Wilms tumour and glioblastoma. Her specific interests were the mechanisms of action of the IGF1R inhibitors NVP-AEW541 and picropodophyllin (PPP). She hopes that her work will prove that IGF1R represents a good target for patients with relapsed Wilms tumours, either alone or in combination with chemotherapy, as well as a good co-target in paediatric glioblastoma patients. This work may also provide the necessary evidence for early Phase clinical trials.

All of Ola’s work at the ICR was supported by her supervisor as well as by a wider network of peers, colleagues and mentors.

"I very much enjoyed my time at the ICR; one of the reasons being that I had a great supervisor, who provided an endless source of knowledge, support, encouragement and, most importantly, a great interest in my research project."

"The most enjoyable thing was working with such passionate people. Everyone here works extremely hard, and their drive to succeed really pushes you to deliver 120%. I’ve also made some great friends, not just through the graduate network but also through mentors and colleagues. You can learn so much from these people and they become natural mentors as well as friends."

Ola also took the opportunity to get involved with ICR life outside her research. As president of the student committee from 2008/09 she set up and monitored a students' intranet site to keep students updated on important events and seminars, and worked with the ICR’s Learning and Development Advisor to set up and run a new course for student representatives. She also helped promote the work of the ICR further afield by giving a presentation to the local council and community in Tunbridge Wells to promote a new local fundraising event.

Following graduation Ola has now moved into IT & business strategy in the pharmaceutical industry as a Strategy Consultant at IBM.

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