PhD Candidate Profile: Fiona Deutsch

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What is your research about?

Head and neck cancer (HNC) encompasses malignant tumours arising within the upper aero-digestive tract and is the 6th most prevalent cancer in the world. Despite advances in treatments, the five-year survival rate of head and neck cancer patients remains less than 50%, with late diagnosis being attributed to the poor prognosis. This poor prognosis has led to efforts to try and clarify the mechanisms underlying the high invasiveness of the disease and to investigate new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. My research in the biological and genetic expression of in the saliva of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients has the potential to streamline the diagnosis and staging of HNSCC. My research will further provide necessary insight into the biological origin of non-coding RNAs and shape our future understanding of how alterations in non-coding RNA expression contributes to human disease, specifically that of head and neck cancer. 

What is translational application of your research?

My research is conceptually innovative and will revolutionise the way in which head and neck cancer is diagnosed. My project will explore the expression and origin of non-coding RNAs in the saliva of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients and has the potential to streamline the diagnosis and staging of HNSCC by establishing an initial, simple and cost-effective diagnostic kit. This research will also ascertain a simple method to detect and measure the biological expression of specific genes in the human papilloma virus, within saliva, which is currently not possible. The use of saliva as a diagnostic medium will ensure that patients do not have to undergo painful surgery, due to the nature and location of the tumour, for diagnosis. 

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

The prestige in receiving a TCRN PhD top-up Scholarship will certainly advance my research and help me realise my goal in the development of a diagnostic kit for the early detection of HNSCC. It will further fund travel to conferences and allow me to communicate my research and build important networks and relationships.