Diluka Peiris, UoA 3, LS

microalgal species

I am a post-doctoral research associate at the Against Breast Cancer Research Unit in the Faculty of Science and Technology. My principal areas of expertise are breast cancer glycobiology, proteomics and affinity based biosensors. Before joining the Against Breast Cancer Unit I investigated diagnostic markers for metastatic colorectal cancer under the supervision of Dr. Miriam Dwek, University of Westminster. I have been with the Against Breast Cancer Unit since 2011 and been involved in proteomic studies of breast cancer tissues. My current work focuses on identification of diagnostic markers for aggressive breast cancer.

I received my BSc (Honours) in agricultural sciences from University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and an MSc in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University of Westminster. My PhD, an investigation into the interaction between different fungal species as a model of primitive defence mechanisms, was also undertaken at the University of Westminster, with Professor John Hedger.

Metastasis, the dissemination of cells from the primary tumour to distant organs is a major problem affecting patients diagnosed with secondary tumours. The main focus of my work is identifying and targeting changes on the cancer cell surface that are likely to influence the ability of breast cancer to spread to secondary organs. Identification of potential targets would allow characterisation of possible biomarkers for metastatic breast cancer. The sugar composition of membrane proteins are known to alter during the development of metastasis and offer potential for specific targeting of metastatic cancer. These alterations can be detected using naturally occurring sugar binding substances called ‘lectins’. The project utilises two new approaches; proteomics, which has ability to separate and identify hundreds of proteins in a single experiment and biosensor technology, which allows measurement of the tightness (affinity) of interactions at cell surfaces. We have identified changes in proteins on metastatic cancer cells and intend to measure these as bio-markers for early diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. This work will pave the way for future development of antibodies directed against the identified targets. In addition, identification of differentially expressed proteins might also help to decipher the intracellular signalling pathways leading to the initiation of metastasis.

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