PhD Student – Katarzyna Niemiec

Title: An investifation on the effects of HPV16-induced immortalisation and POU2FC regulation in keratinocytes

Katarzyna Niemiec was a PhD student under the supervision of Prof Ahmad Waseem and Dr Muy-Teck Teh at Queen Mary University of London. Her project, funded by Saving Faces and Rosetree Trust, focused on human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) and its role in head and neck cancer.

Update: Congratulations to Katarzyna for successfully submitting her final thesis and passing her PhD viva with minor corrections in February 2018.

About the study and the next steps

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, I have 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 my 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.


I have presented my findings at numerous internal and international conferences including the PhD Dentistry Day 2014 – 2017, William Harvey Day 2014 – 2016, European Cytoskeletal Forum 2015 and Gordon Research Seminar on Epithelial Differentiation & Keratinization 2017. To attend the latter two, I was awarded with SMD, PGRF and Biochemical Society travel grants.