Presenting in Brazil

Dental School building
Dom Smith
Undergraduate Student
Intercalated BMedSci Degree
Project title: The role of RE-1-silencing transcription factor (REST)in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) progression

When did I do my BMedSci?

I started my BMedSci in September 10 and completed it in July '11, having taken a year out between my second and third years.

My project

My project looked into the role of a gene called the RE-1 Silencing Transcription Factor (REST) in the progression of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC). REST has been implicated as a tumour suppressor in an array of epithelial-derived tumours, such as Breast, Lung and Colon; however its role in HNSCC progression is unknown. We looked at RNA levels of REST in a number of different oral cell lines - from Normal Oral Keratinocytes, to Dysplastic cell lines, SCCs and also a metastatic cell line to see if there was any pattern in REST expression and cancer progression. However, no significant pattern was seen. We then artificially raised the expression levels of REST in one cell line and knocked it down in another cell line to study effect on cell behaviour, such as adhesion to fibronectin, migration and proliferation. Ultimately we showed that raising REST levels increased adhesion to fibronectin and reduced cell migration and knocking down REST levels had the opposite effect .
On the back of these results, we then began to look into possible mechanistic pathways for these changes, using a combination of bioinformatic databases and substantial literature searches. A few potential targets of REST were found and shown to be altered in the REST++ and REST-- samples; however more investigation needs to be done to see if these targets were responsible for the changes seen in cell behaviour.

Posters and presentations

I presented the findings of my research in the friday lunchtime speaker slot in May 2011, in a twenty minute talk to academic staff in the faculty. The poster ArRESTing Oral Cancer Development, which I presented at the events outlined in the next section.

Honours and prizes

I won the Junior Colgate Prize at the BSODR in Sheffield, September 2011, for which I won a trip to Brazil to represent the BSODR in the Hatton Prize and present my findings at the IADR in Iguazu Falls, June 2012.

I also represented Sheffield University in the BDA/Dentsply Student Clinician Awards at the Royal Horseguards Hotel in London, January 2012.

What I gained from my BMedSci

I gained a great idea of how academic life works at the University, along with a really good skills set for any future career in hospital or academic research.

As part of the course, you undertake lectures in Ethics and Statistics alongside the medical students who are also doing a BMedSci - through this I made some great friends, who I will definitely be keeping in touch with once I leave Sheffield.

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