Meet the Team - Jordan
Jordan Conway first came to MIA as a Biospecimen Bank Officer at Westmead Hospital after an intense Honours year that left him in need of a break from the lab. Working so closely with patients gave him the distance he needed, but he felt like he needed to help in other ways.
“I got to see the incredible successes of melanoma treatment, only to have other patients I had seen almost every week suddenly no longer return to clinic because their treatments weren’t working. I became desperate to do more.”
He moved into the Melanoma Translational Research Group at CPC, working as a Project Officer and Research Assistant across a variety of MIA’s projects. Working with such a wide range of researchers and noticing just how patient-focused the research at MIA was, Jordan decided he wanted to get back in the lab.
Jordan has been a PhD student under Dr Inês da Silva, Dr James Wilmott and MIA Co-Medical Director Professor Georgina Long for about six months now.
His project looks at mechanisms of resistance to immunotherapy, specifically in melanoma patients with liver metastases. Jordan crafted his research question alongside post-doctoral researcher and medical oncologist Dr Inês da Silva.
“Inês posed a really interesting clinical question – why does the liver seem to be the gatekeeper of resistance?”
“I’m excited by the clinical relevance and translational impact of this project – in clinical settings, patients with liver metastases tend to have a worse outcome on treatment.”
Jordan aims to determine if it is the site of metastasis that creates a poor systemic response, or something within the biology of the tumour that causes the melanoma to metastasise to the liver and make it resistant to therapy.
In the six months Jordan has been back in the lab, he’s worked out a routine. Most mornings begin the same – Jordan arrives at around 8 am and heads straight for the lab. There, he spends his time collecting and preparing samples for his experiments, optimising techniques he needs, or, when he’s ready, running his full experiment.
His afternoons can be highly varied – some days the experiments he sets up in the morning require his full attention long into the afteroon. On other days he spends his afternoons at his desk in CPC, analysing the data from his experiments, leafing through relevant clinical information to develop new patient cohorts, or reading up on the latest research that he might be able to use down the track.
Once a week Jordan sits down with Inês, and they are frequently joined by Dr Wilmott and Professor Long. They discuss where his project is currently at, any experiments he has recently finished and those he is planning to start, any new data he has found and the implications of that data.
“These meetings really help me re-focus so I don’t get too caught up in trying to do too much all at once. It’s so helpful to put in place a game plan for where to go next and what to prioritise – it helps me focus on the important things.”
Right now, Jordan’s focus is writing papers – something he says he’s looking forward to the least.
“I am a very hands-on person. I like working in the lab, doing experiments, working with patients and their samples… Writing is not my strong suit!”
“But I know that writing is a really good way to collate your work in a concise manner, get your research out for others to see and potentially help with other research, so I’m currently committed to writing two papers.”
Knowing that immunotherapy is now being investigated as a treatment option for other cancers gives Jordan hope that his research could translate to other cancers, too.
“To know that, down the line, my research could not only help melanoma patients but potentially help those with other cancer types would be amazing.”
“I’m hoping, as we all do, that I can find something that will be able to directly impact patient outcomes. To see patients surviving longer because of research that I have played a part in would be the ultimate reward. But I know these things take time.”
Jordan has some words of advice for people considering taking on the mammoth task of a PhD.
“It’s been said before by people in our lab group but it’s so true - make sure you find the right supervisor, one that suits you. It is critical to have a supervisor that supports and trusts you, someone to help make the experience a fun and enjoyable one and someone who pushes you out of your comfort zone and inspires you to keep pushing forward with the work.”
“Also, make sure you find a project that you are really passionate about. Find a project you can see yourself investing time and energy in essentially every day for three to four years straight. It will keep it enjoyable, help you to push through the challenges that inevitably arise, and hopefully make sure you come out of it with some solid research.”