A perfect ending for 2021 for Prarthna Clare!

Only a few days before Christmas, on the 22nd of December, Prarthna was successful in defending her PhD thesis.

After almost four years at the Institute, Prarthna successfully completed her project “Morphological and Immunological Characterisation of Head and Neck Cancer”.

Prarthna secured the prestigious Elphinstone Scholarship and joined the Institute in January 2018 to start on her PhD journey under the lead supervision of Dr Rasha Abu-Eid and the co-supervision of Prof Jaya Jayasinghe.

Prarthna’s PhD project focussed on head and neck cancers and their precursors, potentially malignant disorders. Despite advancements in treatment, head and neck cancers have seen little improvement in survival rates. This is mainly attributed to late diagnosis with one of the main problems being the inability to predict malignant transformation in potentially malignant disorders. The current systems that are used to identify the risk of malignant transformation are subjective and have poor predictive value.

Prarthna’s project involved the use of digital pathology to identify changes associated with malignant transformation in oral and oropharyngeal tissues. This was achieved through the use of different software packages and the application of various image analysis techniques to characterise morphological changes at the tissue, cell and nuclear levels in normal, potentially malignant and malignant oral and oropharyngeal tissues. Different immune markers were also assessed in these tissues.

The project identified significant changes in different descriptors of morphology and immunology, not only between different stages of the disease, but also between cancers associated with human papilloma virus (HPV) and those free of it.

This exciting work provides building blocks for developing more robust and objective systems that can be used to classify potentially malignant disorders and can reliably predict malignant transformation.

Ultimately, it is hoped that this work will contribute to improving early detection of malignant changes and therefore improve patient outcome.

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