October 2016: Malcolm Tan
Malcolm is a member of the Keshav Group and a medical professional.
1) How did you become interested in translational gastroenterology?
By accident really! I arrived in Oxford as a clinician with the intention of learning the clinical aspects of managing IBD patients. What surprised me was the laboratory, within throwing distance of the wards, which truly epitomises the phrase 'bench-to-bedside". With little background in laboratory work, Prof Keshav offered the opportunity pick up techniques in immunohistochemistry as part of a bigger study of lymphocyte activation gene (LAG-3) expression in ulcerative colitis, which I readily accepted as it was something that could not be passed on.
2) What are you currently working on and what importance does your work hold for current patients with gastrointestinal issues?
Even with recent advances, there remains an unmet need for patients who are not responsive to current treatment options. New therapeutic targets need to be identified before novel biological agents can be tested.
LAG-3 is a CD-4 related protein found in activated T-cells and prolonged activation leads to chronic inflammation. Therefore, it is a potential therapeutic target in patients with IBD. Our group is looking at LAG-3 in the context of ulcerative colitis and together with Prof Keshav and Stephanie Slevin, we are interested in its differential expression in patients with acute colitis and treated colitis.
3) What do you enjoy most about scientific research?
The process from ignorance to excitement that comes with results. Ignorance, when coupled with the restlessness of uncertainty, spurs endeavours to answer scientific questions. The satisfaction from finding answers to the question is always welcome.
4) What's the best part of being an Oxford University TGU member?
The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the full spectrum of IBD, looking at how researchers from diverse backgrounds collaborate in the laboratory, the wards and the endoscopy suite to seek solutions for our patients. And Monday night football sessions with people from the TGU!