BREAST-PREDICT Translational Research Seminar
1st February 2017, 5-7pm, Albert Theatre, RCSI
Clare Corish, UCD
‘Diet and Breast Cancer Prevention: Food or Supplements?’
Amanda McCann, UCD/Ciara Conlon, CEO Theya Ireland
‘From biomarkers to bras’
Sarah McGarrigle, TCD
‘Obesity, Lifestyle and Breast Cancer’
Naomi Elster, Beaumont/RCSI
‘Moving research from laboratory bench to clinical trials’
Marie Ennis-O’Connor, writer & patient advocate
David Gomez, Systems Biology Ireland, UCD
‘Using maths to beat breast cancer’
Following this, on October 13th, two up-and-coming breast cancer oncologists from the US were invited to present their research at a seminar held at RCSI. Dr. Michaela Higgins is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and has led numerous national and international clinical trials for patients with breast cancer. She presented her recent work, focused on PI3 Kinase mutations in breast cancer, and the emerging role of PI3 Kinase inhibitors to treat breast cancer. Our second speaker was Dr. Róisín Connolly, an Assistant Professor of Oncology at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Her research focus is on designing and conducting clinical trials that test investigational new drugs in the treatment of breast cancer, and she discussed her recent research on the use of novel epigenetic therapies for breast cancer.
Finally, the BREAST-PREDICT team also participated in a fundraising event for the ‘Paint it Pink’ campaign, together with the Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Lab in UCD. The group held a Coffee Morning and Bake Sale on the ‘Pink’ theme, with pink nail painting for all comers, and some fantastic raffle prizes donated from restaurants Sabor Brazil and The Pig’s Ear. A total of €860 was raised for the Irish Cancer Society’s Action Breast Cancer initiative.
Following this comprehensive introduction, three up-and-coming Irish-based researchers presented their work, beginning with Dr. Sarah McGarrigle, a post-doctoral fellow from Trinity College Dublin. Dr. McGarrigle highlighted the role of lifestyle factors in the increasing penetrance of breast cancer-predisposing mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Her research aims to characterise how lifestyle changes can increase breast cancer risk, by measuring markers of DNA damage and oxidative stress. The goal of this research is to identify ways for high-risk patients to reduce their risk through lifestyle modification. This was followed by a talk from Ms. Fatima Al Oraifi, a surgeon who completed her PhD in Trinity College Dublin. Ms. Al Oraifi carried out targeted next-generation sequencing on high-risk women who were known not to have BRCA1/2 mutations, with the aim of identifying novel germline mutations. This project has identified several potentially pathogenic mutations in both known and candidate susceptibility genes, which may be clinically relevant in Irish populations, and are currently being assessed in a follow-up study. Finally in this session, Dr. Terri McVeigh from NUI Galway presented her work on an Irish case-control study, where she identified specific genetic variants, which increased the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
The afternoon session was chaired by Mr. James Geraghty, Consultant Surgeon in St. Vincent’s Hospital, and Dr. David Gallagher, Consultant Medical Oncologist/Geneticist at the Mater Hospital, with the first three talks focusing on the clinical management of familial breast cancer patients, from risk-reducing surgery to genetic testing. Ms. Ruth Prichard from St. Vincent’s Hospital considered the role of screening, chemoprevention, and prophylactic surgery in the management of these patients, while Dr. James McKay from University College London and Dr. David Gallagher from the Mater Hospital discussed the current state of cancer genetics services in the UK and Ireland, respectively, focusing in particular on the recent introduction of gene panel testing, as opposed to single gene testing in the UK. Highlighted in particular in the ensuing discussions was the lack of resources in this area within the Irish healthcare system. Dr. Chris Lord from the Institute of Cancer Research in London switched the focus to molecular biology, presenting his work on the role of PARP inhibitors in treating BRCA-deficient patients, how resistance occurs, and how this can be overcome. Finally, the closing Keynote address was given by Prof. Fergus Couch from the Mayo Clinic, who presented his current research on Variants of Uncertain Significance (VUS), mutations identified during screening which have unknown clinical consequences and can therefore be problematic in terms of patient management.
Feedback on the workshop from attendees was excellent, and BREAST-PREDICT look forward to hosting similar workshops in targeted areas of research in the future. This workshop was sponsored by the Irish Cancer Society, Amgen, Myriad Genetics and the National Breast Cancer Research Institute.
The Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Lab recently hosted a workshop in UCD showcasing the application of Optical, Nuclear, Ultrasound and MRI Molecular Imaging in Biomedical Research, including an industry orientated session. This workshop highlighted how researchers in Ireland are using preclinical imaging to enhance their research, and illustrated the broad range of research areas that can benefit from molecular imaging.
Speaking at the workshop, Professor William Gallagher, Director of the Irish Cancer Society Collaborative Cancer Research Centre, BREAST-PREDICT, welcomed an audience from Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, Royal College of Surgeons and the National Universities of Maynooth and Galway. The goals of the work shop were to foster links with other imaging facilities, promote collaborations and sharing of expertise, showcase the wide research arenas used that use molecular imaging in their research and to draw attention to the Preclinical/Molecular imaging modalities available in Ireland.
Dr. Paul Crossey kicked off the work shop with an excellent presentation introducing Ultrasound Imaging, system performance and types of measurement while also highlighting the use of ultrasound in his research group to track cardiovascular decline with age. Throughout the day presentations covered the full range of imaging modalities. Prof. Marina Lynch from TCIN illustrated how they were using MRI to look at age-related changes in the brain by evaluation of volume, blood flow and blood brain barrier permeability. In the afternoon, we heard about new clinical radiopharmaceuticals coming online in Ireland from Dr. Ruairi O’Donnell (M2i) with applications specialists from VisualSonics and PerkinElmer talking about preclinical ultrasound and optical imaging probes. Dr. Karen English from Maynooth presented their recently acquired and first-in-Europe Whole Mouse Cryo-imaging System. Last but not least a very interesting presentation from TriFoil Imaging outlining their range of systems including a fully integrated small animal PET/MRI. Audience participation and discussions continued throughout the day.
A special thanks to PerkinElmer for sponsoring the event.
The Centre has recruited 7 new PhD researchers, 10 new Postdoctoral researchers, 2 Research Assistants, a Research Nurse, a Clinical Research Associate, a Senior Lecturer and a Centre Co-ordinator since opening its doors in October 2013. In additional to these directly funded researchers, the team includes 20 of the top Principal Investigators in Ireland in the breast cancer field, as well as members of their research groups. Overall, the BREAST-PREDICT team consists of >50 researchers working towards improving the lives of breast cancer patients in Ireland.
In the first six months, the group has published four primary research articles and three review articles, with several additional research articles currently under review. They have also been busy recruiting patients to their translational trials, and to date, over 400 patients are enrolled and have given their consent to take part in this research programme.
Dr. Farnie’s research interests are in the area of Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs) in invasive and pre-invasive breast cancer. During her talk, she covered the issue of preferential survival of breast cancer stem cells in response to radio and chemotherapy, and discussed therapeutic strategies her group has identified which may combat this problem. She currently leads her own research group in the University of Manchester, having been awarded a Breast Cancer Campaign fellowship.
Horizon 2020 has an increased budget of nearly 30% in real terms compared with its predecessor, the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7). Ireland was successful in achieving the national target of winning €600M in funding from FP7, with a number of the successful initiatives spearheaded by BREAST-PREDICT researchers.
Speaking at the launch, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn outlined the opportunities for Ireland’s economy and society presented by Horizon 2020: “Investment in research, innovation and science is essential if Europe and Ireland are to create new high-quality jobs. Horizon 2020 funding is based on competitive calls that are open to everyone. It is up to individual researchers, research organisations, companies or other organisations to get involved.” The Commissioner urged Irish companies and researchers to ‘be ambitious, find partners to collaborate with and apply now”.
Seán Sherlock T.D. Minister for Research & Innovation stated: “Ireland has adopted a new strategy to ensure strong participation by Irish researchers and companies in Horizon 2020, with an ambitious target of winning €1.25 bn over the programme period.” BREAST-PREDICT Investigators hope to take advantage of these opportunities in the coming years, by leveraging additional funding to help achieve their goal of making personalized medicine a reality for breast cancer patients in Ireland.
The BREAST-PREDICT kick-off meeting was held on the 31st October 2013 in the newly opened Charles Institute in University College Dublin. Over 30 members of the BREAST-PREDICT research team from around Ireland attended the meeting, which included presentations on the current and future research plans by group leaders, in addition to productive round-table discussions on the practical implementation of the nationwide ‘virtual’ Centre. In particular, details of the National Breast Cancer Biobank and Database, which forms the core of the research strategy of BREAST-PREDICT, were agreed on. This kick-off meeting provided an important opportunity for the BREAST-PREDICT researchers to meet in person, discuss future plans, and meet new members of the team. The next group meeting will be held in Galway on February 26th 2014, when BREAST-PREDICT investigators will present their latest research updates to the team.