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Stephanie Manning awarded the Richard Stewart Scholarship for 2018

Steph Manning 186pxDr Stephanie Manning has joined the Department of Surgery and Anaesthesia to undertake a Masters in Medical Science through the University of Otago, Wellington Campus.

Stephanie has been awarded the Dunedin Basic Medical Sciences Course Trust Richard Stewart Scholarship for 2018. This scholarship enables current trainees and fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to do further academic research during their early careers.

Stephanie’s Masters project is investigating the use of microRNA as blood-based biomarkers to predict patient response to neo-adjuvant radiotherapy treatment for colorectal cancer. To do this, she is using banked blood samples from patients with colorectal cancer at Wellington Hospital that have been collected as a part of ongoing research by the Surgical Cancer Research Group (SCRG).

Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand and claims approximately 1200 lives per year. The mainstay of treatment for rectal cancer is surgery and this is preceded by neoadjuvant radiation or chemoradiation therapy for more advanced cancers. Unfortunately, patient response to this therapy is variable and a significant proportion of patients don’t get any benefit from exposure to these potentially toxic therapies.

There are currently no established blood tests to predict whether a patient will respond to neoadjuvant therapy prior to surgery. By developing such tests, more optimal treatment for patients could happen and resources would be better directed to avoid ineffective and potentially harmful treatments.

Stephanie’s project is investigating a type of regulatory RNA called microRNA that can be detected circulating in the blood. Circulating microRNA can originate from a number of different tissues in the body, including tumours, and they have emerged as promising candidates for cancer biomarkers in recent years.

Stephanie’s research project is funded by the Wellington Cancer Society.

More information regarding the progress and outcome of the research will be available in due course.