Dr. Niamh Buckley graduated from Trinity College, Dublin in 2002 with a First Class Honours Degree in Biochemistry. She then carried out her Ph.D. training in the Department of Oncology (Queen’s University Belfast) under the supervision of Prof. Paul Harkin. Following this, she then worked as a post-doctoral researcher with Dr Paul Mullan in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (Queen’s University Belfast). During this time she investigated the role of the breast and ovarian tumour suppressor gene, BRCA1, in stem cell regulation and mammary gland differentiation.
Dr Buckley was awarded the prestigious Breast Cancer Now fellowship in 2013 to develop novel biomarkers and therapeutic strategies in BRCA1-mutant and/or triple negative breast cancer. In 2016 she was appointed as a Lecturer in Personalised Medicine and Pharmacogenomics in the School of Pharmacy (Queen’s University Belfast). Her research focuses on the integration of in vitro, in vivo, bioinformatics and pathology approaches to identify key pathways underpinning poor outcome breast cancer and use detailed knowledge of this biology to identify appropriate targeted treatment options, personalising therapy in an area of unmet clinical need.
Dr Buckley’s work has led to a number of significant publications in leading cancer research journals and she has been the recipient of several prestigious awards including European Association of Cancer Research (EACR) Young Scientist Award (2012), Roche Gold Medal Award (2011) and School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences Post-Doctoral Researcher of the Year (2012).
Title: “Application of Liquid Biopsy to the detection and treatment of Ovarian cancer”
Liquid biopsies are an emerging tool to allow the study of biomarkers in bodily fluids including blood, urine and saliva. This limitless resource allows key biological information to be obtained about the specific disease in a minimally invasive manner. In the context of cancer, liquid biopsies can be used to screen and/or diagnose patients with cancer as well as to stratify patients based on prognosis or predicted drug response. Together this allows for a personalised medicine approach to be used to tailor management and/or treatment options based on specific knowledge of the underlying biology of the disease.
Ovarian cancer kills 11 women each day in the UK. The poor survival statistics are due in part to late diagnosis as symptoms are often difficult to recognise. There is a clear need to develop new sensitive and specific tests to detect cancer as early as possible to maximise outcome. We have harnessed in depth knowledge of genetic changes in the earliest stages of the disease to identify potential novel biomarkers. Validation of these biomarkers is ongoing in a large clinical cohort and we are translating our findings to a liquid biopsy setting.
Our research will help accurately detect ovarian cancer and determine the best way to treat the disease. This will have significant impact on this area of unmet clinical need.