INFANT centre and UCC Departments of Biochemistry and Obstetrics & Gynaecology PhD student Caroline Joyce was awarded an Employment-Based Programme Postgraduate award by the Irish Research Council on 25th August 2021.  


Caroline, who is a Principal Clinical Biochemist in Cork University Hospital, received the prestigious scholarship for her research into biomarker discovery for the diagnosis, management and treatment of women with Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD). She was one of 28 awardees under this scheme and the only recipient in Cork.  


Molar pregnancy (MP) is the commonest form of GTD with an incidence of one per 600 pregnancies. First trimester ultrasound and levels of the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) can diagnose a MP with histological confirmation of trophoblastic tissue in the placenta. After a molar pregnancy, hCG levels are monitored closely until levels return to normal and most women have a good outcome.  


However, some patients with GTD develop persistent disease or gestational trophoblastic neoplasia (GTN) and may require surgery and/or chemotherapy. Plateauing or rising hCG levels can indicate disease recurrence but alternative more sensitive biomarkers are needed to ensure early detection and treatment of this largely curative disease.  


Caroline’s research will examine the molecular mechanisms underlying this rare disease under the supervision of INFANT’s Professor Keelin O’DonoghueProfessor Tommie McCarthy from UCC’s School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and Dr John Coulter, Consultant Gynaecologist and Clinical Lead at the National Gestational Trophoblastic Disease Centre.