PhD Scholarship Top-up student profile: Claire Henry

TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up Recipient: Claire Henry TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up Recipient: Claire Henry

Wnt Signalling in Gynaecological Cancers (Previously ROR2 in Ovarian Cancer)

Award: Claire is the recipient of a three year PhD Scholarship Top-up

Supervisor:  Dr Caroline Ford, Research Fellow, Lowy Cancer Research Centre; 

Co supervisor: Prof Neville Hacker, Conjoint Professor of the School of Women's & Children's Health, Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW.

My project aims to investigate the role of Wnt signalling in gynaecological cancers. Wnt signalling is a key cellular process that regulates characteristics such as cell growth and migration. We believe the Wnt Signalling Receptors, ROR1 and ROR2, are up regulated in gynaecological cancers and activate Wnt signalling, driving tumour progression and metastasis. To investigate this, I will look at the expression level of these Wnt receptors and other Wnt target genes in a large cohort of patient samples and cell lines. I will over express and knock out these receptors in different cells, including chemo resistant cells, to study the impact of Wnt signalling on tumour metastasis and recurrence. 

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What is the translational application of your research?

Gynaecological cancers account for 9.4% of all cancers, and 8.7% of all cancer deaths for women in Australia. Unfortunately, treatment options are limited to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Due to the undistinguished symptoms, diagnosis of gynaecological cancers often occurs at a late stage. There is a need to understand the biology of these diseases to gain a better understanding of the initiation, progression and recurrence in order to develop possible biomarkers for early stage disease and later targeted therapies. Wnt signalling plays an important role in cancer metastasis and progression, but is not characterised in gynaecological cancers. Thus, this research aims to provide a novel target for gynaecological cancer therapy for patients currently with limited options.

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"The TCRN plays a very important role in my research aspirations. Firstly, the TCRN has already provided me with preliminary patient samples through the HSA Biobank, which I will use throughout my PhD. This is a unique opportunity to investigate Wnt signalling in a large patient cohort, with the addition of patient health data. Secondly, the TCRN provides numerous workshops, development opportunities and access to seminars at the Prince of Wales hospital (for example Cancer Grand Rounds).

As I am studying the molecular level of cancer, the TCRN drives me to focus on the translational aspects, and gives me a great opportunity and the support to learn more about the clinical side of cancer treatment and research. The TCRN also gives me opportunities to network, attend conferences and gain knowledge from other researches in a range of fields, improving my own research and communication skills."

Claire Henry commenced her first year of PhD studies at the Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW in February 2014.