Researcher in Focus: Dr Antoinette Perry
Dr Antoinette Perry is an Assistant Professor in Genetics and Cell Biology at University College Dublin. She leads a research team who largely focus on the biology and genetics of prostate cancer. The mission of Antoinette’s research is to reduce death and suffering from this disease. To achieve this goal, Antoinette’s lab has two main research areas.
One half of her team are trying to understand how biochemical (epigenetic) changes in our DNA are involved in the development of prostate cancer. She wants to use this epigenetic information to develop tools that could help inform doctors about a patient’s specific cancer; how aggressive it is or how likely it is to respond to a certain drug.
Antoinette has a particular interest in studying epigenetic DNA changes via “liquid biopsies” that can act as surrogates for non-invasive tumour detection and monitoring. Her group recently published an article in JCO Precision Oncology, in which they described a urine DNA test (epiCaPture), which can detect 85% of aggressive prostate cancers. Her team are now working with scientists and clinicians from Ireland and internationally to validate these findings and further develop epiCaPture, so that one day, it may be a test offered to men to help inform their need for an invasive prostate biopsy.
Other members of Antoinette’s team are tracking epigenetic changes in DNA from blood in men with metastatic prostate cancer to try to understand how individual men respond to different therapies and how their tumours evolve. This project is in conjunction with Cancer Trials Ireland and the iPROSPECT study (Irish Programme for Stratified Prostate Cancer Therapies).
The other half of Antoinette’s lab are studying the anti-cancer properties of several marine and terrestrial plants. Her team use cell line models of prostate cancer and are measuring changes in cancer cell behaviour when grown in the presence of different plant bio-actives. Ultimately, Antoinette’s goal is to identify plant compounds that could be used as chemopreventive agents and to figure out how they exert these protective properties.
Before Antoinette joined UCD in 2015, she spent many years at Trinity College Dublin, where she completed her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and her post-doctoral training. Antoinette’s passion for cancer biology was first sparked in 2000, during a summer internship at the National Centre for Medical Genetics, when she joined a breast cancer project.
In 2002, Antoinette received a postgraduate scholarship from the Irish Research Council and carried out her PhD studying the epigenetics of prostate cancer. During this period, she carried out a number of international mobility elements (supported by the Irish Cancer Society) at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, USA, which greatly accelerated her research.
In 2009, Antoinette was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the Irish Cancer Society to further develop her research in this field. During her fellowship, Antoinette demonstrated the importance of epigenetic dysregulation of specific pathways in prostate cancer and identified a number of potential biomarkers for aggressive prostate cancer. In 2011, Antoinette was awarded a Young Investigator Award from the US Prostate Cancer Foundation, which was instrumental in her forming her own research group.
Antoinette’s current research projects are funded by the Irish Cancer Society, Enterprise Ireland, the Health Research Board, the Irish Research Council and industry support. Antoinette has authored more than 40 articles and several book chapters on prostate cancer epigenetics.
Outside of the lab, Antoinette is a mum of two and a proud dog owner. In her downtime she loves to hike, knit and experiment in the kitchen.