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Postdoctoral fellow - cancer genetics

Lyvianne is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cancer Genetics Lab. She works on testing promising drugs in the chemoprevention and/or treatment of hereditary gastric cancer by using cell lines and organoids. Her main goal is to find a way to use existing drugs to prevent and/or treat these cancers and to bypass the current treatment, a veryminvasive procedure called a gastrectomy.

An interview with Lily

lyvianne-decourtye-espinard
Lyvianne relaxing outside the lab

What is your work here? What are you hoping to discover? Why will it be important?

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the lab. I help to test pre-existing drugs for the prevention and/or treatment of hereditary gastric cancer. The current treatment is prophylactic gastrectomy and is therefore not ideal. The main goal of this work is to make the patient’s life easier and to avoid any complication or side effects of the treatment.

What attracted you to this area of research? What excites you about it?

I was always interested in the study of cancer as it’s a worldwide disease and the second leading cause of death. The role you play in trying to fight this disease can have a huge impact and help millions of people.

Weirdly, as much as this disease scares me, it also fascinates me because of the incredible machinery cancerous cells have to hide from the immune system and to develop by using every resource it can find in the body.


What is the most difficult element of your work?

The experiments on the organoids that are essential to have a better idea of how the drug works are time and money consuming. One of my objectives is to try to optimise this experiment to test different drugs simultaneously to find the best combination to target essentially cancerous cells and not normal ones.

What’s it like working in a Lab? How did you come to be working here in this Lab?

Working in a lab means you are a part of a team that has a common goal, to help patients. We all work together to find the best treatment possible to treat gastric cancer. Considering the various backgrounds of people we have in a lab we always find somebody to answer our questions.

I did my PhD in France on the impact of perinatal nutrition on the somatotropic axis and I continued in New Zealand studying adolescent idiopathic scoliosis so quite far away to cancer research, well not that much as a lot of techniques used are similar as well as the signalling pathway. I was at the end of my first postdoc and I was looking for something new and as I am open minded I was really excited to change subject. Parry was looking for someone to work for him and I had heard great things about the lab and the subject sounded really exciting so here I am!

What direction do you want your career to grow in?

I would like to continue to work in this lab and in the future become a research fellow. I would like to find the best drug combination possible to treat this disease to hopefully continue with a clinical trial.

What are the most important things you’ve had to learn to do well at your work?

I would say that the main qualities to do this work are patience and curiosity. To always ask question and to find a way to answer them.

It is not always easy to question yourself but what I’ve learned is with time and hard work you always find the answer you were looking for!

What advice would you give to someone in school who aspires to research?

I would say that science is a really exciting job always learning and doing different kind of experiment and analysis, you are certainly never bored! My advice would be to stay open minded and to embrace all the opportunities you have to learn something new.


Where did you grow up? What things interested you about the world as a child?

I grew up next to Paris in France in a little town called Montmorency. I have always been interested in traveling, discovering new culture and the study of physiology and pathologies. I guess the fact that my parents were both doctors lead me to love biology.


What subjects did you enjoy most at school? The least?

I enjoyed mainly anything related to physiology and pathologies. I loved the logic behind it.  The subject I least enjoyed was geology, I did not really see the point of analysing rocks, and I could not really see the improvement your work can do to the world.

Looking back, were there people in your family or community who influenced your field of study or sparked your interest?

Definitely! My parents who were doctors I think influenced me to like science and to find the beauty in it.


Where did you do your undergraduate study?

In Paris, at Pierre and Marie Curie, Sorbonne University.

What do you enjoy outside your work here?

I enjoy traveling around New Zealand to discover this amazing country as well as traveling abroad. I particularly enjoy finishing my day chatting and laughing with my friends.