Although my supervisor and I are already set on a project theme/ idea, I've spent a lot of time this year brainstorming for new project ideas, the results which I been subconsciously storing into a sort of 'worst case scenario' back-up category.
I believed that I needed these back-up ideas, in the instance that we were unable to verify the observation upon which the main project theme was based. Specifically, we had spotted an isoform behaving differently to its wildtype counterpart in response to drug treatment of various cell lines. However, this observation was made using microarray data. For those of you who are unaware of gene expression studies, microarray data is a fickle thing, and has to be verified by more specific methods before anyone can get too excited about it.
I had made the assumption that, because we work in a cancer research lab, it would be improper for us to do protein/ gene characterisation studies unless they were part of a very specific question which had arisen from our "cancer-based" experiments. Hence all the brainstorming. I thought there was a chance the isoform studies could potentially be unsuitable. This is despite the fact(s) that:
i) the gene is significant in a major cell survival pathway,
ii) it has been implicated for a role in prognostics for a number of cancers,
iii) current drug trials targetting the gene are ongoing with mixed success
and iv) the gene is so well characterised and implicated in cancer, that you can read about in just about any generic cancer genetics review paper...
...yet the isoform is nowhere to be seen in the literature. It is obvious that this poses a window of opportunity for research. It hasn't been studied before, yet due to the significance of the wildtype protein, its likely that the isoform has some interesting stories to tell too.
I think my supervisor was confused about why I seemed so unsure about the significance of the project, and why I kept on asking about alternative project ideas. It wasn't until a conversation (where I told her about my apparent misconceptions) this week that she reassured me that, even if the microarray data can't be confirmed (which is apparently far less likely than I thought), the gene/ protein characterisation studies can still go ahead, and are still perfectly relevant to cancer research- for all the reasons listed above.
This was a massive relief, and I am finally able to settle myself somewhat calmly into the knowledge that my project was 'OK'.
P.S. I have a stinking cold, sorry if this post is a bit all over the place. Hey, at least I'm sticking to my own deadlines :)