Emma Jane Jones
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Q & A with Sheffield based Researcher, Shelly Lawson

Emma Jane Jones
Posted by
07 Aug 2015

Shelly Lawson answers those burning questions we’d all love to know about a research scientist, specialising in Myeloma. What her work involves on a day to day basis and what inspires her.

We caught up with one of our researchers, Dr Shelly Lawson, Research Fellow in the Department of Oncology at the University of Sheffield. Here is a little insight into the world of research and what Shelly and her team are up to.

1.  Can you tell us about your research work here in Sheffield?
Our research team works on multiple myeloma, a disease caused by the growth of cancer cells in the bone marrow. A frequent consequence of this disease is the damage it causes to bones which leads to patients having a higher fracture risk than normal. At present we can give patients drugs that prevent further bone destruction but we cannot repair the bone damage. Therefore, our work focuses on developing new drugs that build new bone to repair the damage that the cancer has caused.

2. How long have you been a blood cancer researcher? And based in Sheffield?
I have worked on multiple myeloma in Sheffield for the last ten years. Previous to this, I was a Bone Biologist at the University of Oxford for five years.

3. What attracted you to blood cancer research?  In particular Myeloma?
Like most people I have had family and friends affected by cancer, therefore to be able to contribute to developing better treatments for any cancer feels very rewarding. I was specifically attracted to myeloma because of my expertise in bone biology, as myeloma can cause severe bone pain and be very debilitating for patients. 

4. What do you love about your job?
I enjoy developing different techniques to improve the analysis of drug treatment on bone. I also love the variety of what I do. For example, one day I can be working in the laboratory, the next day I can be on a plane to an international conference to present my work in front of hundreds of scientists and clinicians. I also like the fact that the Medical School, where I am based, is next to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and this allows me to work alongside clinicians and regularly meet myeloma patients.

5. Can you tell us what a typical day might be for you or one of your team in the labs?
Our expertise is in analysing bone tissue, so a typical day for one of our researchers usually includes analysing several bones to see if a particular drug has any beneficial effects on it. This includes taking lots of x-ray images of the bones, removing the calcium from them so they can be cut open and the numbers of different cells inside them can be assessed. Once all this has been done all the results are analysed on a computer and presented in a graphical form so we can statistically compare different treatments to find the best one.

6.  What do you hope to achieve through your work?
To discover at least one treatment that will repair the bone damaged caused by myeloma. Currently no such treatment exists, only drugs that prevent further damage, which is not always adequate.

7.  Have you or your team ever done any fundraising for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research? And did you enjoy the experience?
Yes nearly every member of our current team has raised money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. This has included collecting money in Sheffield town centre, putting on an entertainment show called “For one night only”, helping out the local  Branch at the Calendar Girls shows selling merchandise, and taking part in a sponsored walk and bike ride. All these activities were hard work but we all enjoyed the experience and will continue to do fundraising where possible.

8. Can you tell us a little bit about your life outside research? 
To relax I like to take my dog out for long walks in and around the Peak District and I regularly go rock climbing. I’m also a keen sports fan and where possible I watch the premier league, F1 motor racing and athletics.



Really interesting reading. We had a fantastic time when we were lucky enough to have a tour of the labs in Sheffield to see that fantastic work that Shelly and all the Sheffield team do! Keep up the great work! 

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