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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

Meet the researcher: Dr Sara Badodi

by Nicola Gale

Working in the team at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London, Dr Sara Badodi’s research focus is on paediatric brain tumours.

Her work is funded thanks to a generous donation from Peter and Jane Gardiner, who lost their son Ollie to a medulloblastoma in November 2017. On the second anniversary of Ollie’s death, in 2019, his family donated £187,500 – monies remaining from an appeal which raised almost £500,000 to fund pioneering immunotherapy treatment for Ollie in Germany – to fund Dr Badodi, who works within a team of researchers developing new treatment strategies to inhibit the progression of aggressive medulloblastoma.

She said: “Very rarely does a day go by when Ollie isn’t at some point in my thoughts as I work in our lab. I would have liked to have shown him the work we are doing but now we do it in his memory and I am so thankful to his family for the funding they gave us and the opportunity to learn more about his tumour type that this funding presents.”

We caught up with Sara to find out a bit more about her research:

What projects are you working on at the moment? 

My work is focused on studying the mechanisms regulating the DNA modifications which can play a role in the development and maintenance of paediatric brain tumours.   

How will they go on to benefit patients? 

The ultimate goal is to exploit what we have learned about how a specific group of tumours originates, proliferates and survives to propose and design patient treatments.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

It is for sure the time when you can finally prove the experimental hypothesis you have thought about, collecting all the pieces of evidence. The moment when all the pieces of the jigsaw fall into place and you realise it may have an impact.

Dr Badodi working in the lab

What are the hardest parts related to your work?

I am working as a post-doctoral fellow and as much as I love my job, the uncertainty of this type of role is sometimes really hard to handle. You need to be absolutely passionate about your job to choose it and keep choosing it every day knowing that other roles might be permanent and may have a less difficult and fairer career progression. Luckily, I really love my job.  

What (or who) motivated you in difficult times? 

I have always been interested in science and – as far as I can remember – I have always wanted to do science that can really help people. Then when I finally achieved my dream, I realised that it is not always easy and smooth. But now I have a lot that motivates me to keep going with it. A great motivation is the special role that is played by the people coming to visit us during the lab tours, they really help me understand what we are working for.  

What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome? 

I was born and did all my studies, up to the PhD graduation, in Italy. I moved to London for my post-doctoral fellowship and one of the biggest challenges is being far away from my home and family. But I face all this with the belief that here I can fully exploit my knowledge for something important and I know that the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence is the place where I can really make the difference.

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