Northern Institute for Cancer Research

Staff Profile

Dr Deepali Pal

NC3Rs Training Fellow

Background

Qualifications:

Fellow of Higher Education Academy: 2018

M.B.B.S. (First Class): 2002-2008

MSc (Medical Genetics): 2008-2009 

PhD (Cancer and Stem Cell Research): December 2009-2014 

Awards and grant income, total till £503,295 (lead investigator, £289,273):

1.  Newcastle University Single Cell Unit (NUSCU) MRC/University award, December 2017principal investigator:  £10,000

2. Children with Cancer project grant in collaboration with UCLDecember 2017, co-PI: £200,000

3. MRC Confidence in Concept grant in collaboration with bioengineeringOctober 2017, co-PI: £29,022

4. Children with Cancer conference, Newcastle, UK, September 2017: Abstract selected as top ten most interesting abstracts for oral presentation.

 Best talk award at Children with Cancer conference, £500.00

5. MRC-NC3Rs training fellowship, December 2016principal investigator,  £112,473

6. Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group, The Little Princess Trust Project Grant, December 2016, lead investigator£99,991.60

7. JGW Patterson Foundation fellowship, 2016principal investigator£49,508.27

8. Association pour la Recherche sur les Tumeurs de la Prostate (ARTP, French Organisation for Prostate Cancer Research) award for the best oral presentation in Prostate Cancer Research at the 20th Meeting of the European Association of Urology Section of Urological Research, Strasbourg, October 2013. Award value: € 1000.00,  Abstract won travel award, € 300.00

9. 8th NCRI Cancer Conference, Liverpool, November, 2012. Invited speaker. Abstracts won National Cancer Research Institute Prize award 2012, £250.0

10. Travel award at the 9th World congress on Urological Research, 2011£250.00

Esteem indicators:

 

  1. Celebrated female researcher for International Women’s Day, 2018 by NC3Rs: https://www.nc3rs.org.uk/news/celebrating-female-researchers-international-women%E2%80%99s-day-2018

 

  1. Invited speaker on current NC3Rs fellowship as an early-career scientist in the North-East, York University research Symposium, November 2017

 

  1. Invited by the NC3Rs to write a blog on applying for early career awards, September 2017: https://nc3rs.org.uk/news/applying-early-career-awards   

 

  1. Invited speaker at Kind Philipp Tagung Conference, Wilsede, Germany, 2017

 

  1. Invited speaker at European school of Haematology 2nd scientific conference on the tumour environment in haematological malignancies and its therapeutic targeting, Berlin, Germany, 2017

 

  1. Invited to write a preview article in Cancel Cell [ Journal impact factor: 23.5]

Pal, D., Heidenreich, O., Vormoor, J. Dormancy stems the tide of chemotherapy. Cancer Cell, November 2016

 

  1. Invited speaker at the CLR-UK meeting, Bristol, 2014: Leukaemia research

 

  1. Invited speaker at the Academic Urology section of the Annual SARS (Society of Academic and Research Surgery) meeting, 2012.

 

Research

I am an innovative biomedical academic specialising on cutting edge multidisciplinary research that is hypothesis-driven, of significant translational relevance and at the interface of academia-industry collaborations.

My current research in precision medicine focuses on therapeutic targeting of the malignant human bone marrow niche though drug-gene synthetic lethality. I am identifying  cell-cell signalling networks that regulate cancer-niche communications through cell specific in situ transcriptomics with a focus on defining the functional role of the cancer niche in regulating leukemia viability, proliferation, quiescence, dormancy and treatment resistance.

My journey in academic research:

My MSc research identified the protective role of mitochondrial telomerase against nuclear DNA damage in cancer cells (Singhapol, C., Pal, D., et al, PLOS One, 2013, 82 citations). This sparked my interest in cancer biology but even more so in cancer stem cells. I progressed to obtain my PhD degree as an EU FP7 Marie Curie Fellow on adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cell biology. I was the first scientist to develop and establish induced pluripotent stem-cell (iPSC) technology at the NICR and my PhD study was the first to establish a novel iPSC-derived urinary tract model in regenerative medicine (Pal,D., Moad, M. et al ,European Urology 2013, Impact factor = 16, 54 citations).  

I further build upon my expertise in disease modelling and addressed the issue of patient-specific drug testing in children's leukemia research, a discipline where preclinical prioritisation is essential. Drug testing in leukemia is severely obstructed by lack of preclinical models that can test efficacy on patient-cancer cells within rapid turnaround times. Despite its aggressiveness primary leukemia cells rapidly die in tissue culture due to which there is a heavy dependence on cell line models. Cell lines being adapted to niche-independent suspension cultures do not represent molecular complexity see at disease diagnosis. Primary patient cells can be studied in animal models, but these are expensive, ethically debatable and do not deliver drug response data within clinically relevant time-frames. I addressed these issue by developing an artificial human bone marrow-like microenvironment which enabled successful culture and hence drug testing on patient-derived cancer cells (Pal,D. et al, Leukemia, 2016, Impact factor = 11, 11 citations, F1000 prime recommended).

Having secured an NC3Rs fellowship I sought to advance my work further through induced pluripotent stem cell engineering to re-create the different cellular constituents of the human bone marrow on a petri-dish. This means I can now define niche dependence within the dynamic plasticity of the bone marrow. Developing a multicellular bone marrow is technically challenging and identifying interactions between different cells is best obtained through 3D organoid models which will reflect the spatial anatomy of a complex structure with greater precision. This ambition is being made possible through my collaboration with the Department of Engineering (Ribeiro,R., Pal,D. et al, 2017, ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, Impact factor =7.5).

I am currently leading a very exciting multidisciplinary project on bioprinting patient leukemia-bone marrow microtissues. This innovative platform will have two key deliverables:

1. A standardised tool in precision medicine that will enable faster, better and cheaper drug testing including high throughput drug combination testing through automation.

2. A human cell based platform that captures the spatial anatomy of a complex multicellular structure thereby facilitating hypothesis-driven identification and functional validation of therapeutic targets disrupting the cancer-niche interplay.

Teaching

Fellowship of Higher Education Academy , D2 obtained in 2018


Training programmes developed:


I established a clinically relevant and 3Rs compliant drug testing platform (Pal, D. et al, Leukemia, 2016), the success of which has led to widespread academic endorsement at Institute level, nationally and globally (external guest visits). I routinely develop programmes (including study material) and train researchers at varying levels locally and internationally on advanced biomedical technologies in precision medicine.



In addition, I organise training curriculum for junior leukemia-research scientists involving seminars delivered by the Newcastle University Core facilities as well as external research groups. The primary aim of these highly interactive sessions is to champion Institute-wide collaborations and train researchers on the latest developments in cutting edge research and technology.

 

Academic supervision, research training and pastoral support

 

  1. Academic Supervisor, MRes Cancer programme, Newcastle University, 2018: project ‘’Designing an optimal drug combination schedule in childhood leukaemia using a human bone marrow sinusoidal niche-like platform’.
  2. Academic Supervisor, UG CMB 3000 Research Project, Newcastle University, 2018: project “Developing childhood leukaemia drug development platform using bone marrow induced pluripotent stem cell (BM-iPSC) technology”.
  3. Line manager, entry level research technician, Newcastle University, May 2017 – present. Training provided in induced pluripotent stem cell and cancer research
  4. Academic Co-supervisor, MRes Cancer programme, Newcastle University, 2016: project: “MSC-iPSC for a GLP standard ALL drug combination screen”. Student: Miss Sophie Boyd. Research project result: Distinction
  5. In addition I am involved with day to day laboratory / academic training of several research staff (junior and post-doctoral) and students including visits from external laboratories internationally

 

Lectures, Seminars and training activities developed, organised and assessed:

  1. Invited lecturer MRes Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, 2018
  2. PSC1002, Neurosciences, Newcastle University, seminar leaser, April 2018
  3. PSC1002, Respiratory physiology, Newcastle University, seminar leader, March 2018
  4. CMB1006, Practical Skills in Biomedical and Biomolecular Sciences, Newcastle University, seminar leader and assessor, February 2018.
  5. BMS3010 – Genetics of Common Disease, Newcastle University, seminar leader, 2017, 2018
  6. Leukaemia research group seminars, NICR, Newcastle University, 2017-present: in charge of organising speakers and developing training sessions by external speakers for weekly group seminars.  Talks include scientific training sessions as well as research overviews and research progress updates.

 

Student feedback:


"Dr. Deepali was one of the best seminar leaders I have had this year. It was the most engaging seminar I have been to, with a lot of opportunity for interaction and feedback.The very best teaching style at University so far"

  

“The seminar leader for Seminar 2, Dr D Pal, was very good at getting people involved and making us debate/discuss things with each other. I felt much more comfortable asking questions and interacting”.


“Seminar leaders explained everything from the basics, which i think is of great help. Great insights,

indeed!”


“Engaging and explained any questions asked well.”


“Enjoyed the second seminar as the group was very active and the seminar leader was very receptive of everyone's opinions and queries.”


“Excellent. Confident, clear speaker”


“I really liked your enthusiasm and it made the seminar a lot more interesting”


Assessor/Reviewer


1. Year 1 Biomedical Sciences timed essay


2. Stage 2 Biomedical Sciences timed essay


3. Integrated Biomedical Sciences, BMS3008, written exam question


4. UG thesis


5. Biomedical Sciences, CMB1006, group presentations


6. Invited reviewer for research articles/reviews prior to publication (Eg: Scientific Reports)



Publications