NRPDTP Undergraduate Summer Scholarship intern contributes to publication submission and conference presentation.

Picture from left to right: Dr Isabel Hamshaw, Princess Nana-Akyin, Megan Williams and Ernie Ho Yee Ho.


Ernie Ho Yee Ho, a student based at The University of Leeds, undertook a two-month undergraduate Summer Internship in the School of Pharmacy at The University of East Anglia. Ernie excelled in his internship under the supervision of Dr Isabel Hamshaw leading to the submission of a publication.


His summer project was based upon the assessment of a novel cancer therapeutic tool, IS4-FAM, a fluorescent CXCR4-antagonist. CXCR4 is a chemokine receptor that has major roles in ‘normal’ immune cell homeostasis. The CXCR4 receptor is also the most overexpressed chemokine receptor on cancer cells and is associated with the progression to metastatic disease, the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Therefore, the CXCR4 receptor is a desirable target for novel therapeutics however, most CXCR4 antagonists fail at pre-clinical stages. The aim of Ernie’s project was to evaluate the usefulness of IS4-FAM as a novel cancer research tool in comparison to the known CXCR4 antagonist, AMD3100. To do this, Ernie gained skills in several scientific techniques including cell culture, fluorescence and confocal microscopy as well as flow cytometry.


Ernie helped to optimise several key experimental protocols leading to the discovery that IS4-FAM has high affinity for the CXCR4 receptor and that it could be used to directly label CXCR4 expressed on several cancer cell types including prostate cancer, malignant melanoma and acute monocytic leukaemia. These findings were paramount for the progression of the project and contributed to the publication; ‘Use of a fluorescently tagged ligand to study the CXCR4 receptor in cancer’ recently submitted for publication.


Throughout his internship he demonstrated an amazing adaptability to learn new laboratory techniques to a post-graduate standard within a short time-period as well as simply being a delightful addition to the research group. He presented his research findings at the Celebration Conference in September 2023 that brough together all the summer 2023 research made possible by the Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Research Scholarships and UKRI-BBSRC Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership Summer Scholarships.