Kara Ruicci Winner of the Dr. Frederick Winnet Luney Graduate Scholarship


I work with the Translational Head & Neck Cancer Research Group at Victoria Hospital, where our research team is focused on genomically-guided targeted therapies for the treatment of head and neck cancer. Head and neck cancer is the fifth most common cancer worldwide, with over 550 000 cases diagnosed annually, and is increasing due to its association with human papillomavirus (HPV). Survival remains poor and current treatments (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy) have profound permanent impacts on quality-of-life, often causing alterations in speech, swallowing, breathing and facial appearance. There is an urgent need for improved therapeutic options. The PI3K pathway is the most promising clinical candidate for targeted treatment in HNSCC, as 34% of HPV- and 56% of HPV+ HNSCC tumours contain a PI3K pathway mutation. Despite growing experience with PI3K inhibitors, response rates in patients remain low, owing to acquired resistance during the course of therapy. My project is focused on comprehensively examining both innate and acquired resistance to PI3K inhibition in head and neck cancer.