Northern Institute for Cancer Research

Staff Profile

Misti McCain

Research Technician


I received my BSc (Hons) in Applied Science from Cumbria University where I did a desk top dissertation on DNA methylation and its role in cancer development, differential diagnosis and possible treatment regimes. I then went on to do an MRes in Cancer Studies at Newcastle University and did a six month project at The Northern Institute for Cancer Research (NICR) in Prof Helen Reeves's Liver Group, developing liquid biopsy techniques and using patients' circulating tumour cells to stratify treatment.

I am currently continuing my work for Prof Reeves as her research technician. My research revolves around identifying biomarkers in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and managing the HCC Biobank at the NICR. This job involves supervising undergraduate and postgraduate students, providing HCC research samples to collaborators all over the world while tracking donor clinical data, and continuing with my own research.

As far as presentation of my work, I have presented a poster of my personal research into DNA-pk and its role in limiting a patient's response to TACE at the Geneva EASL conference of 2017. This research also resulted in a Presidential Poster of Distinction  award from the AASLD convention in Washington D.C. 2017.

I am currently named as co-author on two publications and in the stages of writing up my own DNA-pk research for my first first-author publication. My first publications have been as a co-author on an abstract published in Anticancer Research, a paper on MBOAT7 variants in HCC patients in Scientific Reports and a paper on the mitochondrial negative regulator MCJ as a therapeutic target for acetaminophen-induced liver injury  in Nature Communications.

Looking to the future, I am lucky to have been awarded a five year contract to continue in my position as Prof Reeves's research technician and am hoping to be involved in enough projects and on enough publications to be considered for a PhD by Publication from Newcastle University.  


The catalytic subunit of DNA-Protein Kinase (DNA-PKcs) promotes DNA damage repair & is both a candidate driver of hepatocarcinogenesis & mechanism of resistance to cytotoxic therapy – its upregulation predicting a shorter time to radiological progression following transarterial chemoembolization (TACE)[1]. Having recently developed a method enabling detection of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in 65% of patients with HCC [2,3], showing associations with stage & poorer prognosis [3], we have characterized DNA-PK expression in CTC.

This pilot study suggests that DNA-PK CTC predict a lack of response to locoregional therapy, shorter TTP and shorter survival. In patients with DNA-PK positive CTC, medical therapy or clinical trials – possibly combination studies with a DNA-PK inhibitor - should be considered in preference to 1st line locoregional therapy. CTC studies should be considered in clinical trial design.

  1. Cornell et al. (2015) Clin Cancer Res. 21: 925

  2. Dent et al (2016) In J Cancer. 138:206

  3. Ogle et al. (2016) J Hep 65:305