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Trinity College Dublin

Personal Information
College Photo Name O'Toole, Sharon
Main Department Obstetrics
College Title Snr Experimental Officer
College Tel +353 1 896 2117
Sharon O’Toole obtained a BSc Hons in UCG in 1994 and received an award for outstanding results. She went on to receive one of the limited places on the MSc Biotechnology course and graduated in 1996. From there she worked as a QC analyst in Schering Plough. She was then selected to assist one of the leading members of the technical transfer team who was involved in the transfer of technology from the US. An opportunity then arose in TCD, which would eventually lead to a PhD. She received the O’Meara scholarship from Trinity. She has gained enormous experience in the area of ovarian cancer and has played a major role in the development of studies in gynaecological cancer. During the course of her PhD she showed innovative skills in developing assay systems for chemosensitivity/resistance testing. Sharon forged many links with industry and became principal investigator on a study funded by Bristol Myers Squibb. She has worked directly with Applied Biosystems and presented for them at symposiums. Other funding she received for studies included the royal city of Dublin hospital trust fund and the HRB. She then became a coinvestigator on a 5th framework study funded by the European commission with a consortium of eight centres throughout Europe. She has presented at both national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. She was nominated to present at the Blair Bell symposium in London. She received an award from the International society for preventive oncology for her presentation in Geneva
Membership of Professional Institutions, Associations, Societies
Details Date From Date To
Member of European Association for Cancer Research. Member of Irish Association for Cancer Research
Language Skill Reading Skill Writing Skill Speaking
English Fluent Fluent Fluent
French Fluent Medium Medium
Description of Research Interests
-Early diagnostics in ovarian cancer -Chemoresistance in ovarian cancer Chemosensitivity/Resistance testing of malignant gynaecological tumours -Examination of Fibrinolytic systems of malignant gynaecological tumours -Examination of angiogenesis in ovarian cancers. -Examination of multidrug resistance genes in gynaecological tumours. -Estrogen regulated genes in endometrial cancer. -PhytoSERMs and Endometrial Cancer
Research Interests
Gynaecology oncology Obstetrics/Gynecology Oestregens in age related urogenital diseases
Research Projects
Project title Identification of novel biomarkers in recurrent/chemoresistant ovarian cancer
Summary Ovarian cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women and is often detected in the advanced stage of the disease, resulting in a high mortality rate. This is because the symptoms of ovarian cancer are not recognised immediately, the molecular pathobiology of ovarian disease is poorly understood and sensitive screening tests are not currently available. Treatment usually involves surgery followed by chemotherapy. While many women respond well initially, a worrying number of women will face a recurrence of disease, often with the tumour becoming less amenable to chemotherapy over time. Understanding the biological mechanisms underlying recurrence of ovarian cancer and addressing chemoresistance is of the utmost importance for improving treatment and outcome of the disease. Recurrence represents the “true killer” among ovarian cancer patients and identification of novel molecular markers present in recurrent tumours is urgently required. Using cDNA microarrays, we will carry out gene expression profiling between primary and recurrent ovarian cancers from different patients with the same histology and from the same patients with different histology aiming to identify potential biomarkers of recurrence. Using TaqMan PCR techniques, selected targets will be further validated to correlate with microarray results. Signatures from both cohorts will be also validated against an independent set of serous papillary ovarian adenocarcinomas, the most common histological subtype. Using real-time RT-PCR, we will also examine the patterns of dysregulation of miRNAs in recurrent ovarian cancer and we will elucidate potential mechanisms responsible for this dysregulation. We will observe for any possible intersections between our transcriptomic and miRNA targets. We will also investigate the in vitro effects of selected targets in platinum sensitive and resistant cell lines.
Funding Agency Royal City of Dublin Hospital Trust Fund
Type of Project Basic Science
Date from Oct 05
Date to Oct 08
Person Months

Project title A Consortium of researchers dedicated to understanding and treatment of ovarian cancer: The DISCOVARY Consortium
Summary We have established an international trans-institutional multidisciplinary consortium [DISCOVARY] to address the problem of ovarian cancer. Our current work is focussed on identifying transcriptome, proteome and regulatory signatures which characterise early (Stage I), advanced (Stage III-IV), recurrent, chemoresistant and chemosensitive ovarian cancer and which can be used in a clinical setting to improve the diagnosis, treatment and management of this disease In addition, we believe that hypoxia plays a central role in the emergence of the chemoresistant phenotype in ovarian cancer patients. As part of our translational discovery pipeline, we have established the following specific objectives for this study: A. Extension and maintenance of a human ovarian tissue and serum bioresource network in Ireland, with the establishment of international collaborative link B. Generation of a novel human ovarian library proteome resource [OVA-1] C. Construction of a serum antibody profile in ovarian cancer D. Validation of a proteome map of borderline and early [stage I] ovarian cancer E. Construction of a transcriptome and miRNA translational control map of early, recurrent, non-recurrent and chemo-resistant ovarian cancer F. Formulation of diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic validation pipelines G. Patient specific lab-on-a-chip devices to be used in therapeutic monitoring, bio-discovery and novel chemotherapeutic drug discovery H. Uncoupling hypoxia and chemoresistance in ovarian cancer I. Understanding blood-borne mechanisms involved in growth and spread of ovarian cancer J. Understanding cancer stem cells in ovarian cancer The consortium has been fortunate to receive funding from the Emer Casey Foundation. Family and friends of Emer established the foundation following her untimely death from ovarian/uterine cancer in June 2006.
Funding Agency Emer Casey Foundation
Type of Project
Date from Oct 08
Date to
Person Months

Project title Ageing and the Urogenital Tract
Summary Co-investigator
Funding Agency EU Commission
Programme 5th Framework
Type of Project
Date from 2001
Date to 2004
Person Months

Project title Chemosensitivity testing in gynaecological cancers
Funding Agency Bristol-Myers Squibb/Enterprise Ireland
Type of Project
Date from 1999
Date to 2000
Person Months

Publications and Other Research Outputs
Peer Reviewed
Laios A, O'Toole SA, Flavin R, Martin C, Ring M, Gleeson N, D'Arcy T, McGuinness EP, Sheils O, Sheppard BL, O' Leary JJ., An integrative model for recurrence in ovarian cancer., Molecular Cancer, 7, 2008, p8-
Flavin RJ, Smyth PC, Finn SP, Laios A, O'Toole SA, Barrett C, Ring M, Denning KM, Li J, Aherne ST, Aziz NA, Alhadi A, Sheppard BL, Loda M, Martin C, Sheils OM, O'Leary JJ., Altered eIF6 and Dicer expression is associated with clinicopathological features in ovarian serous carcinoma patients., Modern Pathology, 21, (6), 2008, p676 - 684
Notes: [PMID: 18327211 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]]
O'Toole SA, Sheppard BL, Laios A, O'Leary JJ, McGuinness EP, D'Arcy T, Bonnar J., Potential predictors of chemotherapy response in ovarian cancer--how do we define chemosensitivity?, Gynecological Oncology, 104, (2), 2007, p345 - 351
O’Toole SA, Dunn E, Sheppard BL, Klocker H, Bektic J, Smyth P, Martin C, Sheils O, O’Leary JJ., Genome wide analysis of DNA in endometrial cancer using comparative genomic hybridisation microarrays. , International Journal of Gynaecological Cancer , 16, (2), 2006, p834 - 842
O'Toole SA, Sheppard BL, McGuinness E, Gleeson NC, Bonnar J., Serous papillary adenocarcinomas of the ovary display heterogeneity in their response to chemotherapy., International Journal of Gynaecological Cancer, 11, (5), 2001, p365 - 371
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Last Updated:30-SEP-2014