Kathleen Williamson


  • Room 0G.018 - H.S.B

    United Kingdom


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Personal profile


Dr Williamson has a strong track record in bladder cancer research with special interests in improving both the early diagnosis of bladder cancer and risk stratification for patients awaiting cystoscopy.  Dr Williamson obtained her PhD in 1993 from Queen's University Belfast whilst working within the Department of Surgery in the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast. During this period, she established collaborative links with surgeons and pathologists. In 1998, her focus shifted to urology, especially bladder cancer. Since 1993 Dr Williamson has supervised 7 MD, 4 PhD and 4 MSc students for theses in the field of bladder cancer. Dr Williamson also has a strong interest in education; she obtained her MMedSci (Medical Education) in 1998.

Dr Williamson’s is currently working with Randox Laboratories Ltd and urologists and pathologists in Northern Ireland hospitals to address an unmet need in urology.  This team aim to define diagnostic classifiers for haematuria patients and to identify biomarkers of disease progression in patients with urothelial cancer.

Following on from the success of a pilot study, Dr Williamson together with urologists and scientists based at Randox Laboratories Ltd have secured funding from Invest Northern Ireland to undertake a large Haematuria Biomarker Study (HaBio) www.qub.ac.uk/sites/habio

At the present time it is very difficult for clinicians to stratify patients with haematuria, some of whom will have very serious disease, but many others will have benign diagnoses.  HaBio will appraise ~60 biomarkers in 999 haematuria patients. This study will be a collaborative effort involving urologists and pathologists in Northern Ireland hospitals, QUB academics and scientists at Randox Laboratories. The primary aim of HaBio is to define a classifier for the diagnosis of bladder cancer in haematuric patients. The classifier will be based on a combination of biomarkers which will subsequently be formatted onto a biochip by Randox Laboratories. In addition, this study aims to enhance our understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of urothelial cancer and to determine the role played by inflammation and immune pathways in urothelial carcinogenesis.

HaBio will build on the findings from a pilot study that have recently been published.  A paper published in Cancer reported that a multivariate algorithm significantly improved on the Receiver Operating Curve statistic based on demographics (Abogunrin, 2012). A second paper published in PLoS One describes caveats intrinsic to the common practice of protein standardization in biomarker discovery studies conducted on urine.  In addition, this paper reports that after treatment and/or recovery, protein levels decreased in the controls to a greater extent than in samples from patients with urothelial cancer.  This highlights the confounding heterogeneity within control subpopulations in haematuria biomarker studies. Recently, a third paper was published in BMC Medicine where we describe how patient biomarker profiles naturally cluster into risk subpopulations. We are now expanding our analyses using novel systems biology approaches to gain further insight into the underlying composition of biomarker profiles and how this impacts on the heterogeneity of subpopulations and the accuracy of diagnostic classifiers for urothelial cancer.  These studies have provided invaluable information and understanding which will enhance our approaches in the HaBio study.

Dr Williamson has extensive experience in tissue pathology having led the Tissue Core Facility, Queen's University Belfast from 2005 to 2009 and played an active role in the set-up of the Northern Ireland Biobank.  Her group is now working within the Northern Ireland Molecular Pathology Laboratory to investigate expression profiles associated with inflammation and progression in urothelial cancer.




Research Statement

  • Dr Williamson is the Chief Investigator of a large Haematuria Biomarker (HaBio) Study which has been funded by Invest Northern Ireland. This is a collaborative project which combines the expertise in biochip technology within Randox Laboratories Ltd; the clinical expertise of Northern Ireland and European based urologists and pathologists with expertise of academics within Queen's University Belfast. Recruitment for HaBio is currently at the Belfast City Hospital and at the Ulster Hospital Dundonald.  HaBio will appraise ~60 biomarkers in 999 haematuria patients. HaBio's main aim is to create diagnostic classifiers for all patients who present with haematuria and also to identify ways to identify low risk haematuric patients using the biochip technology.  HaBio will also investigate the underlying pathophysiology associated with urothelial carcinogenesis and progression (www.qub.ac.uk/sites/habio). Dr Williamson has a strong track record in urological research.  She has supervised 15 post-graduate students, all of whom have submitted theses in the field of bladder cancer; 14 of these students have continued to work actively in medical research.  Dr Williamson has extensive experience in tissue pathology and made a significant contribution to the set-up of the Northern Ireland Biobank.  Dr Williamson is currently working within the Northern Molecular Pathology Laboratory to profile immune, inflammation and epithelial to mesenchymal proteins in tissue microarray format in tissues from patients with urothelial cancer and to relate these expression profiles to patient outcomes and other clinical and demographic data collected from the patients.  This will enhance our understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of urothelial cancer and will determine key signalling pathways involved during the progression of bladder cancer.


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