Summer Studentship - Darragh Nimmo: Undergraduate Genetics student at University College Dublin

I undertook my Irish Cancer Society Summer Studentship at University College Dublin under the supervision of Dr Antoinette Perry working on the epiCaPture project. I applied for the studentship from the Irish Cancer Society because I wanted to gain experience in cancer research.

Prostate cancer accounts for approximately 300,000 deaths each year, highlighting the need for a new test to replace the PSA blood test currently used to test for the presence of prostate cancer. The epiCaPture test is specific to aggressive prostate cancer, and therefore would benefit the large number of men with non-aggressive indolent prostate tumours by sparing them unnecessary invasive procedures such as biopsies and radical prostatectomies.

My project focused on incorporating a measure of prostate specific gene expression into the EpiCaPture test through the addition of an assay for a specific gene that codes for the PSA protein (shows high expression in prostate tissue only). In previous studies, Dr Perry’s team have shown that epiCaPture can detect 85% of the aggressive prostate cancers from a study on 450 men. The team hypothesised that a large proportion of the false negative results were due to a lack of prostate cells present in the urine at the time of testing; therefore, it is likely that a measure of prostate specific expression will improve this.

The studentship allowed me to gain practical research experience in  designing experiments; the lab work involved in my project; and the analysis of results and calculations. Working on the epiCaPture project alongside a team of researchers working with the aim of commercialising a novel cancer diagnostic test allowed me to gain practical research experience as well as immediate exposure to the cancer research environment, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was very pleased with the studentship and it was a positive experience for me.