Ewch i’r prif gynnwys

Dr Katherine Smith

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Global Fellow

Yr Ysgol Meddygaeth

+44 (0)29 2068 7314
Tenovus Building

I began my research career with a four-year Wellcome Trust PhD in the laboratory of Prof. Anne Cooke and Prof. Stacey Efstathiou (Cambridge University), studying the impact of a chronic herpesvirus infection on Type 1 diabetes development. During this time, I gained invaluable experience in dendritic cell biology and the CD4+ T cell response and particularly, how chronic pathogens can modify these processes to result in their own gain, as well as benefit the host.

This sparked my interest in the “hygiene hypothesis” and pathogen immune-regulation that led to a Wellcome Trust funded post-doctoral position in the laboratory of Prof. Rick Maizels (University of Edinburgh). There I made use of a chronic gastrointestinal helminth infection to study dendritic cell and cytokine control of regulatory T cell induction, as well as asking how all of these factors contribute to parasite immunity.

In 2013, I was awarded a Wellcome Trust ISSF fellowship and a place on the Cardiff University Independent Researcher Scheme to relocate to Cardiff University and establish my own research group. I have just been awarded a European Commission Marie Sklodowska-Curie Global Fellowship, which comprises two years of research at the University of Cape Town, South Africa (outgoing phase), with a year based at Cardiff University (return phase). As part of this fellowship, I will continue my research into the impact of pathogen-driven immune-regulation on inflammatory disorders, with the aim of translating this knowledge to human disease.








I have given lectures to 2nd year undergradute students studying physiology at the University of Cape Town, on the ability of parasites to influence our immune system. Specifically, I focused on how pararsites interact with cells of our immune system to promote their own survival and influence diseases such as type 1 diabetes and asthma.  With my colleagues at UCT, I am currently helping to design a course for undergraduates focusing on parasite infections.  I currently supervise a PhD student and an Honours student at UCT (Infectious Diseases and Immunology).

During my postdoctoral position at Edinburgh University, I gave tutorials to undergraduate students on basic immunology (T cells, B cells) and assisted with practicals on immunology and histology. Overall, I have co-supervised 2 MSc students, 1 Honours student and 4 PhD students.

I am interested in whether exposure to parasitic worm infections can alter the risk of someone developing cancer.  The interaction between parasite infection and cancer is particularly important in the developing world, where over 2 billion people are infected with parasitic worms.  In these countries, infectious disease contributes to over 1/3 of cancers.  It is currently unknown how parasite infection affects cancer cell development.

In 2015, I was awarded funding from the European Commission to begin to answer whether parasites can alter cancer development.  My project: WORMTUMORS specifically focuses on how parasite infection can influence colorectal cancer.  Parasites and their products are currently in clinical trials to treat inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)s such as colitis and Crohn's disease.  Patients with IBD have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, a debilitating disease that causes over half a million deaths a year (GLOBOCAN, 2012).  My project aims to study the interaction between parasite infection and colitis-associated colorectal cancer in well defined models of disease.  My research includes a two year secondment to the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa (a region in which parasites are prevalent) and a return phase to Cardiff University.  While at UCT, I have secured funding from the National Research Foundation of South Africa to support 2 students on this project.  I am also collaborating with Prof Sharon Prince (UCT) and making use of cancer cell lines to start to ask how differing parasite products affect cancer cell growth, invasion and spread.  We hope this knowledge will either allow the design of novel therapeutics to lower cancer risk or provide the rationale to support helminth eradication.