I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry at NUI Galway in 2002 before going on to undertake a PhD in the area of tumour immune evasion under the supervision of Dr Joe O’Connell, Dr Aileen Houston and Prof Fergus Shanahan in UCC. During this time, we showed that colon cancer cells express FasL, a protein they use to shut off the immune system and by shutting it off we inhibit tumour growth. I moved to Prof Laurence Egans lab in 2006, developed a mouse model of colon cancer metastasis, and identified a role for the transcription factor NFκB in regulation of immune cell response in metastatic progression. During this time, my interest in non-cancerous cells in tumours called stromal cells developed.

I then undertook postdoctoral training at REMEDI, NUI Galway where I focussed on developing techniques and model systems to investigate stromal cell mechanisms of immune system regulation. We discovered how stromal cell immunosuppression is regulated by the microenvironment, specifically inflammation, to shut off the immune response. During this time, I was awarded an Irish Cancer Society Fellowship. I undertook a research sabbatical at the lab of Prof Fran Balkwill in Barts Cancer Institute, London, where I focussed on developing 3D models of colorectal cancer.

I was appointed as a Group Leader and Foundation Research Lecturer in 2017 and I started a new research programme where we focus on understanding how the tumour stroma influences immune responses in colorectal cancer. Recently successful with a future leader award, and having secured over €3M in funding, our research aims to uncover new ways to restore immune cell function in colorectal cancer, with the aim of improving therapeutic options and outcomes for CRC patients. My research has been recognized with multiple national and international awards including the US SITC Future Leaders award. I am a named inventor on patents, one of which has informed clinical trials to enhance immune responses using novel combinations of immunotherapies. I collaborate with experts internationally to develop new technologies and model systems to enhance myresearch programme. My research programme aims to provide education, mentorship and training in the exciting field of onco-immunology, in addition to strengthening the reputation of Irish immune-oncology research.

Please see here for research publications. Furthermore, for details on our current research endeavours please see our research group page here.