Story

Matt Fittall

 

​Matthew Fittall, 2016 intake Crick-CRUK doctoral clinical fellow, Peter Van Loo's lab, now UCL honorary associate professor and consultant clinical oncologist.

I had flirted with research a couple of times before finally starting a PhD at the Crick. Like many medical students, I did an undergraduate lab project but whilst I enjoyed the camaraderie of the lab and the challenge of experimental design it wasn't such a roaring success that I wanted to put medical school on hold.

The density of scientific talent is astounding making all the seminars fascinating, even when unrelated to cancer. The facilities and technology platforms make the process of experiments much easier.

Once in oncology training I was lucky to be able to use an ACF placement for another nine months experience in a more translational lab. For me, already being embedded in my specialty made this much more valuable. I have found lab research has given me more of an insight into the cancer as a disease. It also helped me understand more of the science that underlies the therapies we use.

As a clinical oncology trainee I chose to get my final FRCR exams out of the way before a PhD, knowing I would be even older and greyer by the time I came back. As an ST6, this limited the window of opportunity to step out of training and so I chose to broaden the net in looking for a PhD project and came across the CRUK-funded fellowships at the Crick.

Like many clinicians I knew little or nothing about the Crick before I applied so had to do my homework pretty fast. What I discovered has proved to be even more true since I started. The density of scientific talent is astounding making all the seminars fascinating, even when unrelated to cancer. The facilities and technology platforms make the process of experiments much easier.

My project, in Peter Van Loo's group, focuses on computational analysis of bone tumour genomics with a particular interest in intra-tumour heterogeneity. This has been another leap into the dark, as it is a very basic science project, but is proving hugely rewarding, and made all the easier by working with such a wonderful, friendly group of coffee-drinking boffins.

​Update, Spring 2023:
Finishing my PhD in Spring 2020, my academic ambitions were paused and efforts diverted toward caring for cancer patients amidst the covid pandemic. It wasn't until 2 years later that academic opportunities opened up again and in August 2022 I joined UCLH as a consultant uro-oncologist with the privilege of 50% research time at UCL. The plan is now to use the science I learned at the Crick to better understand the use of and resistance to radiotherapy in prostate cancer. This can add to the existing research strength at UCL in the diagnosis, surgical and drug management of prostate cancer, to improve cancer outcomes. With time, who knows whether that will lead us into new and exciting collaborations with all the wonderful scientists at the Crick.