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Dr. Maria Morrisey, B.A. (Mod.), Ph.D.

Research Background

Dr Morrissey’s research focusses on elucidating the crosstalk between oesophageal tumours and the immune response in patients receiving chemoradiation treatment. This is important for the identification of novel prognostic markers and therapeutic strategies.

Oesophageal adenocarcinoma has one of the worst prognosis of all cancers, and its incidence is increasing faster than that of any other disease in developed countries, including Ireland. Chemoradiation therapy followed by surgery is standard of care for this tumour type, however response and survival rates remain low. Dr Morrissey’s current work involves elucidating the role of inhibition of dendritic cells in gastrointestinal tumours, in particular in oesophageal adenocarcinoma. The connection or crosstalk between tumours and a patient’s immune response is complex and difficult to decipher, but it is of seminal importance for the development of novel markers to predict response and to stratify patients into the most optimal treatment groups. Dendritic cells are professional antigen presenting cells, which initiate the immune response and are fundamental to the body’s defence system to fight cancer. The ability of dendritic cells to stimulate an effective immune response can be highly compromised in cancer patients through unknown mechanisms.

Dr Morrissey’s PhD research was based on the genetics of vertebrate eye development and disease. Dr Morrissey’s career has also encompassed industry-based research, developing novel cancer models in a pharmaceutical R&D company, AstraZeneca, as well as science funding and policy in Science Foundation Ireland.

Research Areas

Cancer immunology, immunotherapy, translational medicine, dendritic cells, immune profiling, patient stratification, tumour microenvironment, vasculature