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Contact Details

Research Fellow
Department of Pathology (Dunedin)
Research summary
Cancer genetics
I hold a postgraduate diploma in pedagogy; Technical University of Gdansk, Poland. At Otago I have taught ELM 2 and ELM 3.
  • Gynaecological Cancer League (GCL), New Zealand
  • New Zealand Society for Oncology
  • Maurice Wilkins Centre Affiliate Investigator, New Zealand
  • MelNet- Melanoma Network of New Zealand
  • Polish Society of Human Genetics
  • Scientific Society of Gdansk, Poland


Since the beginning of my career, I have been involved in breast/ovarian cancer research. I was fortunate to be guided by exceptional mentors who supported my growth as a scientist.

My main focus of interest are:

  • Role of pathogenic variants in moderate and low-penetrant genes in predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer
  • Role of alternative mRNA splicing and alternative isoforms in the pathogenesis of breast and ovarian cancer (including a role of the BARD1 gene in the pathobiology of triple-negative breast cancer)
  • Application of liquid biopsies (cell-free tumour DNA; ctDNA) in clinical diagnostic (targeted therapies in solid tumours) and the identification of potential prognostic markers
  • combining knowledge of genetic and epigenetic alterations and their impact on cancer progression and therapy resistance and understanding further cancer biology

Career achievements

Being a woman and a scientist in the early 2000s was challenging. Still, I successfully managed a full-time position as an Assistant Research Fellow while also carrying out my doctoral training at the Medical University of Gdansk, Poland. A major outcome from my PhD was the development of the 1-line diagnostic assay for BRCA1 screening, which has since helped diagnose approximately 8000 women at high risk of cancer.

During my PhD and post-doctoral research, I have developed considerable experience in analysing moderate/low penetrant genes linked to breast/ovarian cancer predisposition (resulting in one of the first articles indicating the BARD1 gene as a possible risk factor).

Moving to New Zealand and starting my appointment at the University of Otago (2019) raised my awareness of nationwide inequality in breast and ovarian cancer management, especially among Maori and Pacifica women. In addition, while working at the Otago, I received extensive training in epigenetic analyses and have applied this knowledge to better understand breast and ovarian cancer pathogenesis. I have established strong national and international linkages with genetic experts (scientific and clinical) and key policy advocates (e.g. Te Ahu o Te Kahu). From this position, I will seek to translate new discoveries from genomics research into clinical care.


Weeks, R., Almomani, S. N., Macaulay, E., Powell, R., Bhat, B., Zuk, M., … Eccles, M. R., & Ratajska, M. (2023, August). Early detection of lung cancer and identification of potential molecular targets for novel therapies via genetic and epigenetic screening. Verbal presentation at the Queenstown Molecular Biology (QMB) Genomics Satellite, Queenstown, New Zealand. Conference Contribution - Verbal presentation and other Conference outputs

Jasiak, A., Anderson, L., Neumann, S., Wasag, B., Weeks, R., Walker, L., Cunliffe, H., & Ratajska, M. (2023, September). Adaptive homeostasis as a possible non-genetic regulator of BRCA1/2 splicing in ovarian cancer. Poster session presented at the New Zealand Society for Oncology (NZSO) Conference, Napier, New Zealand. Conference Contribution - Poster Presentation (not in published proceedings)

Ratajska, M., Sette, C., & Cunliffe, H. E. (2023). 365 days of progress in cancer genetics. Frontiers in Oncology, 13. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2023.1270902 Journal - Research Other

Jasiak, A., Koczkowska, M., Stukan, M., Wydra, D., Biernat, W., Izycka-Swieszewska, E., … Eccles, M. R., Walker, L., … Ratajska, M. (2023). Analysis of BRCA1 and BRCA2 alternative splicing in predisposition to ovarian cancer. Experimental & Molecular Pathology, 130(104856). doi: 10.1016/j.yexmp.2023.104856 Journal - Research Article

Suszynska, M., Ratajska, M., Ryszkowska, A., Debniak, J., Wydra, D., Cybulski, C., … Kozlowski, P. (2022). Analysis of BARD1, PRDM9, RCC1, and RECQL in patients with ovarian cancer by targeted next-generation sequencing of DNA pools. European Journal of Human Genetics, 30(Suppl. 1), (pp. 418). doi: 10.1038/s41431-021-01026-1 Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

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