Dr Rebecca Spencer
- Position: NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer 2019
- Areas of expertise: Obstetrics and Gynaecology; Maternal and Fetal Medicine; Fetal Growth Restriction; Translational obstetrics
- Email: R.N.Spencer@leeds.ac.uk
- Location: 7.03 LICAMM
- Website: Twitter | LinkedIn | Researchgate
I am an NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and a subspecialty trainee in Maternal and Fetal Medicine.
I studied for my medical degree and intercalated BSc in Clinical Sciences here in Leeds before starting work as a junior doctor in the West Yorkshire region of the Yorkshire and Humber deanery. I began my specialty training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2007 and in 2013 I took time out of training to become a Clinical Research Fellow and PhD student at University College London. My PhD, entitled “Translating a novel therapy for early-onset fetal growth restriction into the clinic”, was awarded in April 2019.
The main focus of my research is what happens in pregnancies where problems with the structure and function of the placenta (placental insufficiency) lead to problems with fetal growth (Fetal Growth Restriction / FGR). I am especially interested in early-onset FGR, where growth problems are detected at the end of the second trimester or beginning of the third trimester. These babies are at high risk of stillbirth, may need very preterm delivery with all of the potential complications that carries, and can be at long-term risk of neurodevelopmental and cardiovascular problems. Unfortunately there is currently no treatment that will improve the growth of babies within the womb. It is also very difficult to predict which babies will continue to grow and which babies will never reach a size and stage of pregnancy where they can survive.
So far my work in this area has included:
- Identifying novel protein markers within the mother’s blood that can predict which pregnancies will end in outcomes such as fetal or neonatal death
- Investigating RNA markers for FGR within maternal blood, in collaboration with Professor Stephen Tong and Associate Professor Natalie Hannan from University of Melbourne
- Exploring women’s experiences of having a pregnancy complicated by early-onset FGR and of taking part in research, in collaboration with Dr Merryl Harvey from Birmingham City University
I am also interested in translational obstetrics more widely; the development of new maternal and fetal therapies is an under-funded area with many pregnancy complications still untreatable. My work in this area has included:
- Helping to establish an international consensus group to define Adverse Event severity grading criteria for trials of maternal and fetal therapies
- Contributing to a successful application for European Medicines Agency orphan drug designation for a novel therapy for early-onset FGR
- BSc Clinical Sciences
- Diploma in epidemiology
I teach the Reproduction strand of Body Systems (MEDI1220, 31771) to the first year medical students and deliver the reproduction teaching week as part of Foundational Life Sciences (MEDI0100, 37027) strand of the Gateway to Medicine course. I also supervise BSc, MSc, MRes and ESREP projects.
Research groups and institutes
- Multidisciplinary Cardiovascular Research Centre
- Discovery and Translational Science
- Maternal, child and family health