PhD Candidate Profile: Nicki Meagher

14 December 2020

What is your research about?

I am studying a rare subtype of ovarian cancer – Mucinous Ovarian Cancer (MOC). MOC can be challenging to diagnose once it has spread, with uncertainty about whether it started in the ovary or elsewhere in the gastrointestinal tract. This makes treatment recommendations difficult, and patients have a poor response to typical ovarian cancer chemotherapy. The tumours tend to have some characteristics in common with gastrointestinal cancers and often chemotherapy designed for those cancers is used, however we need more information to inform this decision making and to suggest targeted therapy options.

I am using a large international consortium, the Ovarian Tumor Tissue Analysis consortium, to bring together samples and data globally to better understand mucinous ovarian cancer. I am analysing large datasets of immunohistochemistry and gene expression data to make comparisons with gastrointestinal cancers. My aims are to contribute evidence to improve accuracy of the diagnosis, uncover new treatment targets, and inform the design a of clinical trial to guide treatment options for these women.

What is the translational application of your research?

There are two main translational aspects to my research. One is to try to apply the recommendations from our recently published pathology study into diagnostic practice. It’s a challenge to do this on a large scale, but it was a thrill the first time I sat in on a Tumour Board (Multi-disciplinary team meeting) after my paper was published and learned that the pathologist had used our recommended markers to help with the diagnosis of a woman with MOC. The second translational aspect will be to take results from my molecular profiling analyses and make recommendation about ‘what’s next’ in terms of clinical trial arms for women with advanced MOC.

How would the TCRN PhD top-up Scholarship help you succeed?

The TCRN top-up scholarship has enabled me to convert from part-time to full-time enrolment in 2021, a pivotal point in my PhD. I have a young family, and have been working and studying part-time since 2017, so this sort of boost makes the juggle possible.