Determining response to treatment

This research project aims to identify molecular determinants of response to oxaliplatin in metastatic bowel cancer. 

By guiding the choice of chemotherapy in metastatic bowel cancer the researchers hope that outcomes can be improved and toxicity limited.

Research project summary

The majority of late-stage bowel cancer patients are treated with a cocktail of drugs including Oxaliplatin, which is associated with significant side-effect of chronic peripheral neuropathy in approximately 50% of patients.

Currently there is no effective way to identify patients who will benefit from addition of Oxaliplatin to their treatment; there is therefore an urgent unmet clinical need to limit unnecessary exposure of patients to the chronic, potentially life-altering side-effects of this agent.

Dealing with the side-effects and the cost of the agent also imposes a significant financial burden on struggling healthcare systems.

The research uses cutting-edge genomic analyses at Queen’s University Belfast and as part of the S:CORT (Stratification in COloRectal cancer: from biology to Treatment prediction) consortium has begun to unravel which “sub-types” of BC benefit most from standard chemotherapy treatments. This has identified a key role for a gene called “p53” in determining response to chemotherapy.

This PhD studentship will exploit the wealth of existing patient and lab-based chemotherapy response data to identify which patients are most likely to respond to oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy and enable patients who will not benefit to avail of alternative therapies.

The ultimate goals are translation of these findings into the clinic.


This PhD study is led by Dr Simon McDade at Queen’s University Belfast.