- Molecular pathogenesis of endocrine cancers
- Diagnosis, management and long-term consequences of thyroid dysfunction
- Investigation of novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches in thyroid nodules and cancer
1. Laboratory Research
Kristien’s laboratory research interests centre around the molecular pathogenesis of endocrine cancers in general and thyroid tumours specifically. In particular the role played by two closely related proto-oncogenes namely PTTG – the human securin - which has been implicated in the aetiology of a number of endocrine tumour types and its binding factor PBF, a proto-oncogene which we is currently being characterised in collaboration with Professor Chris McCabe.
Utilising several models of altered gene expression and function in the murine thyroid, we are currently mapping the multiple actions of PTTG and PBF in the initiation and progression of transformed cell growth. We are characterising the altered growth factor regulation apparent in thyroid hyperplasia and neoplasia, through mouse models, human primary thyroid cultures and transformed thyroid cell line investigations.
Both PTTG and PBF have been shown to reduce the function of the sodium iodide symporter which is the molecule responsible for iodide uptake in thyroid cells, a finding which has major implications for the treatment of thyroid cancers with radioactive iodine. We are in the process of developing systems through which uptake of radioiodine may be modulated in vivo, thereby exploring novel therapeutic approaches for patients with thyroid cancer.
2. Translational Research
Kristien continues to be involved in a number of research projects aiming to improve the management of patients with hyperthyroidism. These include projects determining the prevalence of symptoms and signs in patients with subclinical and overt hyperthyroidism, the risk of co-existing autoimmune diseases in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease, and outcomes following administration of radioactive iodine. Currently ongoing studies include the prediction of mortality in patients with hyperthyroidism according to the treatment modality used and the effects of treatment of hyperthyroidism on BMI. Current funding applications centre around the hypothesis that weight gain following treatment of hyperthyroidism may be prevented through simple interventions including dietary and lifestyle changes.
Based on findings within the laboratory Kristien is in the process of setting up a number of research projects identifying novel diagnostic and prognostic markers in patients with thyroid nodules. This includes investigations of the predictive value of serum TSH concentrations in predicting malignancy as well as the evaluation of molecular tools to aid in the distinction between benign and malignant thyroid nodules. An upcoming Visiting Clinician Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota will be pivotal in further expanding these research avenues.