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Andrea Strakova from the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge was awarded the Student Inspiration Award (Postgraduate).

Andrea has a strong interest in understanding the canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT), an extraordinary contagious cancer that affects thousands of dogs. Beginning as a tumour in one single dog that lived around 11,000 years ago, instead of dying with its host, CTVT took on a life of its own, spreading to other dogs during mating. Around one per cent of the global dog population suffer distressing genital tumours caused by the cancer. It is one of the most common cancers, surviving as a clonal cell lineage until today.

Andrea’s PhD aims to map the genetic and phenotypic diversity of CTVT worldwide. Collaborating with veterinarians around the world, collecting and validating almost 2,000 CTVT samples from 55 different countries, she has performed DNA sequencing to catalogue CTVT genetic diversity. From her findings she constructed a phylogenetic tree that traces the global spread of CTVT and how it was perhaps transported along ocean trade routes, helping us to understand the historical movement of dogs. Andrea’s inspiring work has revealed important insights to the long-term evolution of the disease, contributing to the understanding of cancer, both in humans and dogs.

Enthusiastic Andrea plans to undertake post-doctoral research to understand how CTVT evades the immune system despite being a foreign graft, and to further understand chemotherapy resistant strains by undertaking innovative research. Driven by an enormous commitment for her subject, Andrea has the potential to become a leader in canine cancer research and motivate the next generation of veterinary students to perform research that makes a difference for canine health.