Magherafelt doctor-in-training gets international award for ovarian cancer research

International award winner, Grace McKenna
International award winner, Grace McKenna

A final year medical student from Magherafelt has been named one of the brightest and most innovative undergraduates in the world for her research into the genetics of patients with ovarian cancer and the best drugs to use.

Grace McKenna, who is studying medicine at Queen’s University, told the Mail she took a year out of her medical degree to “complete an intercalated BSc Medical Science from September 2012 to June 2013”.

During that year, the 23-year-old said she worked in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s - and the work she did helped her to outshine 5,000 hopefuls from 200 universities to scoop a highly coveted Undergraduate Award.

As part of her prize, the research she did will now be published in the University Awards journal, and could help the centre secure clinical trials.

She told the Mail: “We were working with cells in the Cancer Research lab in Queen’s and we were trying to knock out suppressor genes to see if particular drugs were more effective with these genes knocked out.

“I did the preliminary work in cells and the conclusions I came to were passed on to a Phd student working within the same research group - so we were all contributing to one big project that will hopefully become a clinical trial,” she added.

The Undergraduate Awards, now in their fourth year, aim to give recognition to the brightest and most innovative undergraduate students in the world, and those who are leading creative thinkers, problem solvers and also future industry leaders.

Miss McKenna said she was encouraged to apply for the awards by one of her lecturers, whom she said is “delighted that the research has been recognised”.

The budding oncologist, also said her parents Martin and Saveen McKenna, as well as her little brother are all very happy for her.

The paper she wrote is due to be published in November, and Grace has also been invited to attend a three-day conference in Dublin featuring companies like Google.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will also speak at the event.