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Monica is one of 40 recipients of the 2023 Springboard Award, which is awarded to biomedical and health researchers in their first independent post to help launch their careers.

Monica is a Group Leader in the Department of Oncology. Her research is focussed on finding better, safer cancer treatments and currently seeks to find ways to improve treatment to kill tumour cells without damaging healthy tissues.

The funds from the Springboard Award will help advance this work; Monica and colleagues plan to investigate the potential of targeting a specific component of the immune system to improve the efficacy of radiation treatment.

This component of the immune system is known as the complement system, so named, as it was traditionally thought to mostly ‘complement’ antibodies and immune cells in clearing infections. However, research has shown that tumours also tend to ‘hijack’ this pathway to thrive. 


“We have found that a receptor in the complement system is particularly good at helping tumour cells survive current cancer treatments. We are looking at whether we can target this system with treatment to ‘override’ tumour hijacking, and ultimately help kill cancer while minimising damage to healthy tissues. We have evidence demonstrating that cancer treatments focused on blocking this receptor combined with other treatments such as radiation successfully kills tumours without causing negative side effects to healthy tissues.”   - Monica Olcina

The springboard award will allow Monica to progress this work towards discovering why this happens and how this receptor specifically controls death in the tumour cell.

The award will also allow access to the Academy’s one-to-one mentoring programme which provides researchers with career development support by pairing them with an Academy Fellow.

Commenting on the award, Monica said: “It’s great to have support from the AMS and to be able to advance this work and myself as a researcher. As an early Career Researcher, it can be hard to get funding for projects.

The mentoring programme and AMS network will help further my progression. I look forward to making connections and future collaborations within the network.”

In a statement on behalf of the AMS, Dr. Suzanne Candy, Director of Biomedical Grants & Policy at the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: 

“Together with our partners, we are fortunate to be able to support this talented group of researchers doing excellent science. Our strategic ambition is to help create an open and progressive research sector. By investing in these individuals and teams, we are broadening the range of people and disciplines engaged in biomedical and health research, across all regions of the UK, and globally. We look forward to supporting our award recipients and seeing how their research has a positive impact on the health of people everywhere.” 

Read more about Monica on her Oncology profile