PhD Final Report – Katarzyna Niemiec

Katarzyna Niemiec successfully submitted her PhD research with minor corrections in February 2018. Katarzyna was a PhD student funded by Saving Faces who focused her research on human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) and its role in head and neck cancer.

Title: Changes in keratin expression in HPV16-immortalised keratinocytes

Supervised by Prof Ahmad Waseem & Dr Muy-Teck Teh

Project summary

Rapidly rising incidence rate of HPV16-positive head and neck cancer has been reported in the Western world and although it is clinically relevant to diagnose HPV16-positive patients, no reliable method for diagnosis of HPV16-positive tumours is currently available. Hence, the main aim of my project was to investigate the effect of HPV16 upon keratinocytes, cells targeted by HPV16 infection, and to identify any changes that might provide a basis for developing novel methods of diagnosing HPV16-positive head and neck cancers. Using a variety of molecular biology techniques to assess keratinocytes immortalised by HPV16, Katarzyna identified a possible negative HPV16 biomarker and established basic in vitro analytical methods for its detection. The next step would be to verify this promising discovery in head and neck tumour samples. Another line of investigation pursued during her project was characterisation of POU2F3, which provided deeper insights into the expression, regulation as well as function of this transcription factor, which is not only expressed in keratinocytes but also involved in HPV16 life cycle.