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Childhood Brain Tumour Research Group

 

Dr Laura K. Donovan

Biography

Dr Laura K. Donovan is a research paediatric neuro-oncologist, with a strong focus in immuno-oncology, molecular medicine, and functional genomics, for the development of novel therapies against paediatric medulloblastomas. Laura has extensive expertise in immunogenomics and how this pertains to candidate target discovery and preclinical modeling for direct translation to clinical therapies. As a previous Fellow at The Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, CA) and Young Investigator for the SU2C-St Baldricks Foundation Immunogenomics Paediatric Dream Team, she established the use of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cells for the effective treatment of paediatric cerebellar brain tumours. This has led to several prominent discoveries including novel locoregional therapeutic delivery for the treatment of medulloblastomas and ependymomas (Nature Medicine, 2020) and a first-in-child clinical trial for posterior fossa A ependymomas (NCT02442297). Laura has also been Team Lead on additional studies, profiling the single cell transcriptome of paediatric medulloblastomas and ependymomas, leading to a better understanding of the tumour-immune microenvironment and the cell of origin of childhood cerebellar tumours, published in Nature, 2019.

Dr Donovan is part of the INSTINCT programme, integrating research programmes at three of the UK's leading paediatric brain tumour research centres - the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at Newcastle University, the UCL Institute of Child Health and the Institute of Cancer Research. This collaboration is helping scientists to take forward vital research into the biological causes of brain tumours, and to use this information to give children hope for new treatments. 

Dr Donovan was recently awarded the title ‘The Society of International Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) Young Investigator of the Year, 2020’, 'The American Associate of Cancer Research Team Science Award, 2021' and the '2021 SITC-Akoya Spatial Phenotyping Award'.

Research

As newly established Neuro-oncology Lecturer at UCL GOS-ICH, Laura’s research programme aims to enhance survival outcomes for paediatric medulloblastoma patients through the discovery of functional- and immuno-genomics, and the translation of immune biology into novel therapeutic strategies using optimal and clinically relevant immune-replete animal models, improving the clinical potential of modern therapies for recurrent paediatric medulloblastoma. Laura’s research programme is supported by Great Ormond Street Children’s Charity, SU2C-CRUK, CCLG Little Princess Trust, Children with Cancer UK, CRUK and The Olivia Hodson Cancer Fund.

Research Projects:

  1. Functional genomics for the identification of combinatorial druggable and epigenetic vulnerabilities of recurrent medulloblastoma.
  2. The use of epigenetic re-modelling combined with novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of recurrent and metastatic medulloblastoma.
  3. The use of novel CAR T-cell approaches for the treatment of primary and recurrent, MYC-driven medulloblastoma.