Academic Clinical Lecturer
- School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences - Academic Clinical Lecturer
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I trained as a medical oncologist, graduating from medicine in 2005 and commencing medical oncology training in 2009. I undertook a clinical research fellowship with the Stratified Medicine Group, with Professor Richard Kennedy, in 2012. From studying the biology underpinning a subgroup of breast tumours with DNA damage response deficiency, I identified constitutive STING immune pathway activation in cancers which have a DNA repair defect. This results in immune gene expression in these cancers. I now continue to study this pathway and its importance in immune response as an Academic Clinical Lecturer. In my clinical work as a medical oncologist, my focus is on the care of breast cancer and melanoma patients. I love the balance and challenge of academic and clinical work – my academic research stimulates my work in the clinic, and my patients drive me to make cancer treatment better.
I study STING pathway activation by endogenous and exogenous DNA damage. My research focus is on the immune response to DNA damage. I discovered activation of the STING innate immune pathway in cancer cells with DNA damage response deficiency. This subgroup of DNA damage response deficient cancer is strongly associated with expression of immune checkpoints. This has important implications for treatment of these patients with immune targeted treatment. I now focus on exploiting the STING pathway in anti-cancer treatment. I also work on developing ex vivo models of cancer for understanding immune response. In addition, I am involved in developing blood-based biomarkers for DNA damage response deficiency.
I am involved in early phase clinical trials, exploring new therapies and biomarkers in cancer care. Most recently, I co-developed and ran the neoDDRD clinical trial, exploring biomarkers predicting response to chemotherapy given in the neoadjuvant setting in breast cancer. Clinical trials are developed with our panel of PPI (personal and public initiative) collaborators, local patients and carers, to ensure our research addresses what matters to patients.
I work in collaboration with experts in both DNA damage and immunology, and my research sits at the interface of these fields.
As an academic clinician, I am passionate about developing enthusiastic junior doctors and medical students who wish to pursue research. I am involved in the INSPIRE mentoring programme at Queens University Belfast, encouraging and guiding medical students as they commence their academic training path.
I have published blog posts with Naturejobs.com on mentorship, succeeding in science and the importance of science communication. Engagement of scientists with the public and policy makers is key for the future of research.
I have an interest in narrative medicine, where the art of medicine is learned and practiced through stories. This relies on evidence-based medicine, but also values the impact of stories on both doctors and patients. The doctor-patient relationship is the cornerstone of medical practice, and understanding the complexities and nuance of this relationship encourages our practice to improve.
Achievements and Distinctions
Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Merit Award 2017
Awardee - Academy of Medical Sciences Starter Grant for Clinical Lecturers 2017
Excellence in Research Award, Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency, 2017
Naturejobs Journalism Competition winner, London 2017
1st prize, Poster presentations, Ulster Society of Gastroenterology Autumn Meeting 2017
Roche researcher of the year, Queen's University Belfast, 2016
Samuel Haslett Browne Travel Scholarship, Queen's University Belfast, 2015
Friends of the Cancer Centre Dr Gary McGowan Scholarship, 2015
Activation of STING-Dependent Innate Immune Signaling By S-Phase-Specific DNA Damage in Breast Cancer
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Research output: Contribution to journal › Comment/debate
Research output: Contribution to conference › Abstract
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