Adesewa Adebisi

Non-Clinical PhD student

Meet Adesewa Adebisi. She’s undertaking a Non-Clinical PhD, funded through the MCRC-CRUK Manchester Centre PhD training scheme. The aim of her PhD is to investigate how radiotherapy affects immune cells and their ability to fight off cancer cells in the body.

Adesewa started her PhD project in 2022 and is expected to complete her project in 2026.

Adesewa Adebisi headshot

What is your background?

My undergraduate degree was in Biochemistry at The University of Huddersfield. In my final year I picked cancer biology as one of my modules and I found it fascinating. I would leave my lectures thinking: ‘Why do some types of cancer seem to evade treatment? How is that possible?’. I’d have all these questions and wanted to know more! 

Around the same time, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Seeing her go through treatment, including radiotherapy, really sparked my interest and made me think about pursuing a career in cancer research.  

I went on to do my MRes in Oncology at The University of Manchester before working for a year as a Scientific Officer at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute in Professor Caroline Dive’s lab.  

I always knew I wanted to carry out my own research and so I’m now in my first year of my Non-Clinical PhD in Cancer Sciences funded through the MCRC-CRUK Manchester Centre PhD training scheme. 

What is the aim of your research?

My research project is focused on understanding how radiotherapy affects cancer cells and their ability to respond to killing certain immune cells. We normally give radiotherapy in combination with other immunotherapy treatments but little is known about how radiotherapy may impact the interaction between immune cells and cancer cells.

Building on previous research carried out by my lab and supervisory team, I’m exploring how radiotherapy may lead to cancer cells developing a transient resistance to immune cell killing and what this looks like in in-vivo models. My ultimate aim is to explore how this might impact radiotherapy-immunotherapy treatment protocols and to help guide future clinical trial designs.


What does your typical day look like?

A lot of my experiments involve growing cancer cells on culture plates so I usually start my day in the lab to make sure my cells are healthy, that there’s no contamination and that they’re good for me to use to run my experiments. 

I can then carry out specific experiments that are linked to my research. Right now, I’m treating the cells I grow with specific radiotherapy and drug doses and conducting a flow cytometry assay, which I use to analyse the physical and chemical characteristics of cells, to assess their level of cell death post-treatment.


You previously worked as a Scientific Officer for CRUK MI. How did this experience help you decide to study a PhD?

Even though I was working in a technical role at the CRUK MI, I was exposed to a lot of ground-breaking cancer research that’s taking place in Manchester. I’d attend lab meetings and listen to updates about the different research projects but I’d always think: ‘Okay, but why is this the case?’.

A lot of the questions I had were aligned more towards the science underpinning the actual research rather than the technical aspect of research that I was doing. I realised that I was limited to explore my scientific curiosity in a technical role whereas with a PhD I’d be able to seek out the answers to my questions myself.

Working at the CRUK MI made me realise how unique the MCRC is. The ‘cancer hub’ that exists in Manchester and the interaction between The University of Manchester, MCRC, CRUK and The Christie really stood out to me.

Adesewa Adebisi

Non-Clinical PhD student

Why did you choose to do your Non-Clinical PhD at the MCRC?

Working at the CRUK MI made me realise how unique the MCRC is. The ‘cancer hub’ that exists in Manchester and the interaction between The University of Manchester, MCRC, CRUK and The Christie really stood out to me.

Before I applied for my PhD, I attended a World Cancer Day at the MCRC. It was great to hear from patients and to see that the MCRC was finding ways to bring patients into the amazing work that they’re doing. I think it’s important to work with patients and community groups and involve them in our research. That’s something that’s quite unique that the MCRC had to offer that I really wanted to be part of.


What is it like working with your supervisor and team?

I’m based in the Targeted Therapy group and work with other PhD students, postdocs and technicians. My supervisor, Dr Jamie Honeychurch, is very supportive and we meet regularly to discuss my research project. As a PhD student, I tend to work quite independently and the onus is on me to direct the path of my research but there are always people around in my lab group that I can bounce ideas off and ask for help if I’m unsure about certain methods or techniques that I need for my experiments.


What do you enjoy most about working with MCRC and CRUK Manchester Centre?

My favourite thing is that I have the freedom and flexibility to explore any ideas I come up with and the caliber of scientific experts I’m surrounded by. I’m working alongside some amazing people who I can discuss my research ideas with and learn from.


What opportunities has the MCRC provided you with?

I’m involved in the MCRC PhD mentoring programme and I’ve been paired with an undergraduate student who is considering applying for a PhD. I’ve really enjoyed being able to offer advice on what it’s like to study a PhD and give them research exposure through structured lab sessions. I have also been involved in a number of outreach event to local high schools in Manchester organised by the MCRC.

I’m part of the Black in Cancer Network and have spoken at outreach school events to help encourage the next generation to consider an academic research career as a viable option for them.

Adesewa Adebisi

Non-Clinical PhD student

What have been your proudest moments so far?

I’m only six months into my research project but I’m proud of the progress I’ve made so far and can see how far I’ve come in such a short space of time. One of my proudest moments was presenting my project at the Radiotherapy Related Research seminar at The University of Manchester. This was the first time presenting my research outside of my lab group and I was extremely nervous but I received really good feedback which was very encouraging.


Do you have any roles and responsibilities outside of your PhD?

I’m passionate about outreach and public engagement, specifically in raising awareness and improving access to academic research for people from minority backgrounds. I’m part of the Black in Cancer Network and have spoken at outreach school events to help encourage the next generation to consider an academic research career as a viable option for them.

I’m also a member of Pfizer’s cancer insights panel group. The work that’s taking place in the cancer research space is incredible but I think there’s often a disconnect between our research and how we bring it to the people who need it. I work with Pfizer to develop initiatives to improve key aspects of non-clinical patient care and the lives of people affected by cancer.


What do you hope to achieve whilst at the MCRC?

Having my research published in an impactful journal and getting the chance to present and discuss my data at conferences would be an amazing outcome for my PhD. But really my end goal is to help generate new knowledge and do research that has a positive impact.


What are your plans after your PhD?

I’m still in the first year of my PhD and so I don’t know exactly what I want to do when I finish. But I hope to continue working in cancer research within academia. I also want to continue being involved in public engagement to bring the public into cancer research and make what we do more accessible. I’d like to continue to be a mentor to students who might not see themselves working in cancer research or doing a PhD to let them know that it is possible and guide them in this path.


Do you have any advice for people who are considering applying for a PhD?

I think there’s a common misconception that to do a PhD you need to be the smartest person in the room, which isn’t true.

I reached out to a number of people before applying for my PhD to try and understand what’s involved and what the next four years of my life would be like. I spoke with current PhD students who really reassured me and showed me what kind of support is available for research students. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions before you apply!

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