Imperial College London: Imperial College Medical Student Wins Prestigious National Research Award

Petra Paizs won the Medical Student prize for her research project working on the early identification of biomarkers for colorectal cancer. The research project was carried out Department of Metabolism, Digestion, and Reproduction at Imperial College London whilst Ms Paizs was completing her PhD.

Ms Paizs will receive her £1,500 prize at a ceremony at the British Society of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting in June next year where she will also meet with and get the chance to showcase her project with illustrious names from the field of gastroenterology and hepatology.

The Dr Falk Pharma/Guts UK Charity Awards are dedicated to encouraging research and promoting patient care in the field of gastroenterology and hepatology. Since 2007 they have rewarded over 100 dedicated young health care professionals, including medical students, junior doctors, nurses and dietitians.

Ms Petra Paizs explains her project; “Bowel cancer is the 4th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 11% of all new cancer cases and early detection increases the chances of survival. Although colonoscopy is the gold standard for detection it is invasive and unpleasant for the patient. The faecal immunochemical test (FIT) although cheap, is not completely reliable for detecting early cancer. There is, therefore, an unmet need for more robust testing for biomarkers associated with early bowel cancer detection.

“Metabolomics has emerged as a novel, rapidly growing technology and faecal metabolomics presents a non-invasive alternative for investigating the gut. This research examined the use of Laser Assisted REIMS (Rapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry) for the reliable detection of small molecules which may indicate pre-cancerous and cancerous growths in faecal samples.

“We also looked to examine how patient diet, age, BMI, gender, ethnicity, comorbidities, and medication may affects the LA-REIMS analysis of faeces. Finally, we wanted to investigate how sample collection technique and storage conditions of faecal samples could influence the general applicability of this test.

“The impact of this research will be to reduce the incidence of cancer by improving early detection of bowel cancer and to reduce the need for, and costs of, bowel investigations such as colonoscopies and endoscopies. It should also help to reduce waiting lists.

“It is a true honour to share my work through the GUTS UK/ Dr Falk 2021 Medical Student Prize and be recognised by a charity I hold in the greatest regard. This award gives me an opportunity to share my research findings and expand on my training in science as well as clinical medicine.”

Ms Paizs’ Project Supervisor, Mr James Kinross, Senior Lecturer in Colorectal Surgery in Department of Surgery and Cancer, comments: “Petra is an exceptional student with an outstanding ability for analytical thought and she is a highly capable scientist who has performed all her own experiments. Most importantly, she has made very significant contributions to the field of metabolic profiling through her own independent innovations.”

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