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    Research Interests

    BACKGROUND

    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 and metastasis as an Academic Clinical Lecturer. In my clinical work as a medical oncologist, I treat patients with solid tumours with a focus on immunotherapy. I enjoy 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.

     

    RESEARCH FOCUS

    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.

    Interests

    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

    Prostate Cancer Foundation Young Investigator Award 2018

    Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Young Investigator Award 2018

    Winner - Royal College of Physicians Teale Essay Prize 2018

    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

     

     

     

     

    Willingness to take PhD students

    Yes

    Frequent Journals

    • Journal of the National Cancer Institute

      ISSNs: 0027-8874, 1460-2105

      Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1460-2105

      Oxford University Press

      Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 5.18 SJR 5.488 SNIP 2.404

      Journal

    • Cancer Research

      ISSNs: 0008-5472

      Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1538-7445

      American Association for Cancer Research Inc.

      Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 7.35 SJR 4.26 SNIP 1.692

      Journal

    • Journal of Clinical Oncology

      ISSNs: 0732-183X, 1527-7755

      Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1527-7755

      American Society of Clinical Oncology

      Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 10.51 SJR 10.683 SNIP 5.147

      Journal

    • Briefings in Bioinformatics

      ISSNs: 1467-5463

      Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1477-4054

      Oxford University Press

      Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 4.75 SJR 2.505 SNIP 1.584

      Journal

    • The Oncologist

      ISSNs: 1083-7159

      Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1549-490X

      AlphaMed Press

      Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 4.06 SJR 2.36 SNIP 1.644

      Journal

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