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Q&A with Dr Laure Marignol

Meet our School of Medicine researcher who is focusing on developing solutions for the destruction of cancer cells

Dr Laure Marignol is an Associate Professor in Radiobiology at the Discipline of Radiation Therapy in the School of Medicine. She is an elected fellow of Trinity College Dublin. As Head of Research for her discipline, she drove the creation of the Applied Radiation Therapy Trinity research group, while leading her Translational Radiobiology and Molecular Oncology research laboratory. Dr. Marignol has worked for over 12 years on the problem of the selective destruction of cancer cells with ionising radiation, through the design of vitro models, the molecular classification of disease, and innovations in therapeutic approaches. Her work has mostly focused on prostate cancer owing to her close relationship with the Urology Department at St James's Hospital.

Dr Marignol serves as Chair of the Irish Radiation Research Society and advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She sits on the Radiobiology committee of the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) and joined the Faculty of their course in Basic Clinical Radiobiology. She holds an editorial position with Nature Scientific Reports. Dr Marignol was a recipient of the highly competitive St Luke's Young Investigator Award of the Royal Irish Academy of Medicine. Dr Marignol’s research is funded by grant awards from the Irish Cancer Society and Science Foundation Ireland. She lives near Dublin with her husband and three young children and regularly visits her family in Avignon, France.

We spoke to Dr Marignol about her research and its impact on cancer care.

How did you become interested in this area of research?

I have been fascinated with the human body for as long as I can remember. I didn’t look for radiation biology, this niche field found me. Interrogating how cells respond to a radiation exposure was never my life-long goal, but from the first lecture, I was hooked. From there, my career has developed through the combination of a love of learning, a need to be challenged and an awareness that kindness is key to progress. Today, I am drawn to focusing on the only feature common to us: the molecular instructions for life - deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA. Tomorrow, I hope to create new therapeutic options for the millions of men, women and children that will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.

How do you see your work impacting health?

I think that sadly, cancer is here to stay, and we are learning to live with that threat and the life-changing impact of its treatment. Cancer patients will never meet me, but I rejoice in the opportunity to help train Radiation Oncology professionals and work with them to solve their challenges in ensuring that each patient can receive the best treatment for their disease. I strongly believe that it takes many small contributions to make something big, and I do take every opportunity to participate in the grand challenge that cancer represents. The contributions come from my research but also my role as an educator for scientists and health care professionals. Collectively, my work does impact health.

What is your proudest achievement?

In 2012 along with my colleagues at the Discipline of Radiation Therapy, I created the Applied Radiation Therapy Trinity research group. My leadership has enabled everyone from students to staff to engage with research, acquire research degrees and define research focuses. Today, the group regularly publishes in highly respected academic journals, and is invited to present at national and international conferences. Our graduates have integrated into leading laboratories and research groups, and we contribute to strategic discussion forums about the direction of field. I am very proud, not only of my contribution, but of that of my colleagues and students.

What is your best advice to early-stage researchers?

Take every opportunity, be patient, expand your skillset and progressively identify what you want to be known for.

Who are/were your mentors?

The late Professor Donal Hollywood was an important mentor for me. I always felt valued when I discussed my research with him, even as a very new PhD student. Since then, I strive to empower my students to feel confident in asking questions and proposing new solutions.
Ms Mary Coffey was another important mentor for me. She taught me to embrace opportunities, to make myself visible, and to gain the confidence to share my ideas with my peers.

Can you recommend a recent book you have read? Who are your favourite authors?

My favourite author is Robert Harris, and I loved his trilogy about the life of Cicero.

When you are not in the lab, where could we find you?

In the office - these days either teaching, writing a grant/paper, or on social media! When I am not working you can find me cooking or baking, playing the violin or running!

Where can we learn more about your work?

If you want to know more about the wonders of ionising radiation, cancer and its biological properties, do contact me or follow me on twitter @lauremarignol for my frequent #RadBioFact features.

You can also read more about Dr Marignol’s work via her website:
www.marignol-lab.org