Donna Small


  • Room 02.013 - PGJCCR

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students


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Personal profile

Research Statement


As a cancer biologist and principle investigator, my research interests focus on the role and function of proteases and anti-proteases in immunoregulation, specifically in a cancer setting. I am especially interested in how these enzymes may regulate tumour development, progression and immune cell function, particularly in respiratory-associated cancers, such as malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) and lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD).

In 2012, I completed my PhD at the School of Pharmacy in Queen’s University, Belfast (QUB). My project investigated the role of cysteine cathepsin S (CatS) in tumourigenesis. I undertook my post-doctoral training in the Centre of Infection and Immunity/Experimental Medicine at QUB, where I continued to investigate CatS in chronic lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis. Also, I explored the role of serine protease inhibitors, such as elafin and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI), in models of acute lung disease. In 2016, I secured a Medical Research Foundation (MRF) fellowship to decipher the role of SLPI in MPM. More specifically, this research aimed to elucidate how SLPI may be involved in CD4+ T cell responses in MPM.

In 2018, I started my own lab at the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research at QUB. My lab continues to work on understanding how proteases and anti-proteases alter immune cells, particularly T-cells and macrophages, and to unravel the multifaceted immune mechanisms that permit these enzymes to manipulate the tumour microenvironment leading to tumour progression, metastasis and poor response to anti-cancer therapies.



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