Research associate Kenny Yu

Neurosurgeon Kenny wins first UK fellowship with famed cancer hospital

Neurosurgeon Kenny Yu has become the first ever UK clinician to be given a prestigious research and clinical fellowship at the world famous cancer hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York.

Kenny, a neurosurgery registrar at Salford Royal and an NIHR academic clinical lecturer at The University of Manchester, has been accepted onto a two-year fellowship programme, beginning in August.

He will be working with some of the top scientists and neurosurgeons in the field and will particularly focus on immunotherapy in brain cancers. This is a way of altering the immune system to recognise cancer cells as foreign so they can be targeted by medication.

Sloan Kettering is renowned for its  immunotherapy research  – 2018 Nobel Prize winner Dr James Allison was the Chair of the Sloan Kettering Institute’s immunology program from 2004-2012. It’s an active research area that’s already seen success in other types of cancer but isn’t as yet well-established in brain cancer.

Kenny said: “Understanding the immune environment in brain cancers will eventually lead to looking at new therapies and that’s important as currently we only have limited treatments for them.

“Immunotherapy has become a very effective treatment in other types of cancer, such as melanoma, so being able to work with the team at Sloan Kettering to develop immunology in brain cancers is really exciting.”

Research culture

Kenny was offered one of the two annual fellowships at the hospital following a gruelling six-hour interview. Its programme training the next generation of surgeon scientists has been running for more than 20 years and he is only the third non-US fellow.

He highlighted Salford and Manchester’s culture of encouraging research and especially the support given to neuroscience trainees to pursue their own research interests as an important factor in his success.

This approach has been pioneered by Salford Royal’s Director of Academic Neurosciences Professor Andrew King, who said: “This is an outstanding achievement for Kenny – this clinical fellowship is almost exclusively for US trainees as it is an official Committee on Advanced Subspecialty Training accredited programme. We are delighted that his dedication and enthusiasm has been recognised by such an important leader in this field and that he believes the support and encouragement he’s received during his time with us has been a factor in his success.”

Kenny has previously completed a PhD in cancer stem cells, working on a programme initiated by Consultant Neurosurgeon Omar Pathmanaban and carried out post-doctoral research with Omar in Toronto with the research group that discovered stem cells in tumours. He also worked with neuropathologist Professor Federico Roncaroli in London. Prof Roncaroli is now Professor of Neuropathology at The University of Manchester and heads the Manchester Brain Bank, which is based at Salford Royal.