UCD Scientists Talk about their cancer research for world cancer day 2016

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Breast-Predict TCD Researchers identify a potential new biomarker and therapeutic for triple negative breast cancer

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Breast-Predict Team hold second successful scientific advisory board meeting

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BREAST-PREDICT team take part in Irish Cancer Society Colour Dash 2015

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Cancer Research – Past, Present and Future

UCD-based cancer researchers also gathered on World Cancer Day, 4th February 2015, for a coffee morning and a break from all their hard work!


About World Cancer Day
World Cancer Day is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the leading international non-governmental organisation that unites the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, to promote greater equity, and to integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda. Founded in 1933 and based in Geneva, UICC is composed of more than 800 organisations across 155 countries, features the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health, research institutes, treatment centres and patient groups.

World Cancer Day is a unique opportunity to encourage everyone affected by cancer to recognise the role they can play in reducing the burden of the disease and ultimately reduce premature deaths from cancer by 25% by 2025.

The Irish Cancer Society Collaborative Cancer Research Centre BREAST-PREDICT team were presented with the ‘Collaborative Achievement’ Award at the recent Irish Laboratory Awards night, held in the Doubletree by Hilton hotel on the 3rd December 2014. Comedian Neil Delamere was the host for the event, which aims to recognise excellence and achievement in the laboratory environment. The BREAST-PREDICT team were recognised for their achievement in bringing together a large multidisciplinary group of top-class researchers from around Ireland, to work towards a common goal – developing a personalised approach to breast cancer care in Ireland. The award was presented by Dermot Harrington of Antech Solutions, sponsors of the event, and was accepted by the Centre Manager, Dr. Fiona Lanigan, on behalf of the BREAST-PREDICT team. Director of the Centre, Prof. William Gallagher, and Principal Investigator Dr. Darran O’Connor were also awarded the prize for ‘Best Laboratory Team of the Year’ for their research group, the Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Laboratory in UCD.

BREAST-PREDICT team meet to discuss progress at the end of first year.

The BREAST-PREDICT team met with members of their Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) on the 5th of September in UCD. The purpose of this meeting was to allow the group to highlight their research achievements in the first year of the Centre, and to benefit from the expertise of the Scientific Advisory Board in guiding future plans. Five of the seven board members attended this first meeting, including Prof. Robert Clarke of Georgetown University, an expert in the area of endocrine resistance in breast cancer; Dr. Garret Hampton, Head of Oncology Biomarker Development in Genentech; Prof. Mats Lambe, an expert in Medical Epidemiology from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden; Prof. Richard Kennedy, a Consultant Medical Oncologist from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), and Prof. Liam Murray, an expert in Public Health and Epidemiology, also from QUB.

The BREAST-PREDICT team spent the morning presenting their research to the SAB, followed by a poster session at lunchtime where PhD students and postdoctoral fellows discussed their work. The afternoon was given over to an engaging discussion on progress, with specific feedback given by the SAB on each research area, in addition to general advice on future directions. Both the SAB and the BREAST-PREDICT team enjoyed the meeting, and we are looking forward to renewed discussions at the end of Year 2.

BREAST-PREDICT Researchers shed light on how aspirin works to reduce cancer deaths.

BREAST-PREDICT Researchers have discovered that women who had been prescribed aspirin regularly before being diagnosed with breast cancer are less likely to have cancer that spread to the lymph-nodes than women who were not on prescription aspirin. These women are also less likely to die from their breast cancer. The study of Irish patients, published by the American Association for Cancer Research in the Journal, Cancer Research, analyses records from the National Cancer Registry Ireland (NCRI), and prescription data from the General Medical Service (GMS) pharmacy claims database. This study was funded by the Health Research Board and the Irish Cancer Society.

‘Our findings suggest that aspirin could play a role in reducing mortality from breast cancer by preventing the cancer spreading to nearby lymph nodes’, says Dr Ian Barron, the lead author, who carried out the research at Trinity College Dublin, and is now working at Johns Hopkins, USA. ‘We analysed data from 2,796 women with stage I-III breast cancer. We found that those women prescribed aspirin in the years immediately prior to their breast cancer diagnosis were statistically significantly less likely to present with a lymph node-positive* breast cancer than non-users. The association was strongest among women prescribed aspirin regularly and women prescribed higher aspirin doses. We now need to establish how and why this is the case’. The findings are consistent with two other major studies. The first is an analysis of cardiovascular trials where pre-diagnostic aspirin use was associated with a statistically significant reduction in the risk of developing metastases and dying from cancer.

The second is an observation from in vivo breast cancer models, which suggest a possible mechanism by which aspirin may reduce the risk of cancer spreading to other parts of the body. Prof Kathleen Bennett, a co-author from the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Trinity College Dublin said; ‘Our study was observational and these results do not mean that women should start taking aspirin as a precautionary measure. Aspirin can have serious side effects. We still need to identify exactly how aspirin may prevent breast cancer from spreading to the lymph nodes; which women, or types of breast cancer, are most likely to benefit from taking aspirin; as well as what the optimum doses might be.

Research to help answer the next questions is funded by the Irish Cancer Society as part of its first National Collaborative Cancer Research Centre, BREAST-PREDICT’. Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive of the Health Research Board said, ‘These results have great potential to help improve our understanding of how to increase Irish and global survival rates from breast cancer’.

To hear Prof. Bennett talk about this research on RTE Radio 1, click here.

Professor John Fitzpatrick – R.I.P

The BREAST-PREDICT team are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Professor John Fitzpatrick. Professor Fitzpatrick was Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, the first to occupy the position which he took up in July 2011. Professor Fitzpatrick’s appointment marked a new era in cancer research in Ireland. His passion, dedication and drive ensured cancer research became a cornerstone of the Irish Cancer Society in the fight against cancer. He led the process which brought together Irish and world experts in a collaboration of the brightest minds.

In September 2013, the Irish Cancer Society announced the first of their Collaborative Cancer Research Centres, BREAST-PREDICT. This transformative new research model was spearheaded by Professor Fitzpatrick, trailblazing the future path for cancer research in Ireland. The BREAST-PREDICT team will strive to keep his extraordinary vision alive.

Before joining the Society, Professor Fitzpatrick was Professor of Surgery and Consultant Urologist at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and University College Dublin since 1986. He was Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Urology International (BJUI) and was on the editorial board of 25 other Journals. He was also Past President of the Irish Society of Urology and of the British Association of Urological Surgeons.

Professor Fitzpatrick will be greatly missed by his colleagues and friends and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family.

The Irish Cancer Society announce funding for a new CCRC, joint-funded by SFI

The Irish Cancer Society have partnered with SFI to fund a second Collaborative Cancer Research Centre (CCRC), and are currently calling for proposals. This Centre will build on the substantial national investment in biomedical research to date, and will be expected to become a world-leading Research Centre that delivers excellence with impact. The CCRC will bring together translational, clinical and population health researchers from the field of cancer with researchers from areas such as engineering and ICT to leverage powerful interdisciplinary synergies, with the aim of developing new insights into cancer and delivering new approaches to treatment. CCRC proposals must focus on unmet medical needs within the area of cancer and must establish partnerships with industry and other major stakeholders, to drive the research towards the development of new approaches and advances to reduce the economic and social burden of cancer in Ireland. More information can be found here.


BREAST-PREDICT take part in UCD Relay for Life


Members of the BREAST-PREDICT team took part in the 2014 UCD ‘Relay for life’ event, organised by UCD students and held in Devlin Park in UCD on April 9th-10th.

The aim of Relay for Life is to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society, to raise awareness about cancer and to show support and solidarity with individuals and their families who have been affected by the disease. The event ran as a relay of walkers and runners circling the track over 24 hours, from 2pm on Wednesday until 2pm the following day. The event opened with a Survivors Lap, with team members or their family and friends who have suffered from cancer walking a lap of honour in celebration and hope. At dusk that evening, the Candle of Hope Ceremony was held to remember and celebrate loved ones who have been affected by cancer. During the event, information talks on the latest in cancer research were given by Dr. Amanda McCann on breast cancer, Prof. Bill Watson on prostate cancer, and Dr. Fiona Lanigan from BREAST-PREDICT, who talked about the latest research initiative funded by the Irish Cancer Society.

BREAST-PREDICT team meet young scientists of the future

BREAST Predict director Prof. William Gallagher recently paid a visit to some of our very youngest budding scientists at Notre Dame Junior School in Dundrum. Together with PhD researcher Bo Li, he introduced the pupils to the fascinating world of science!








BREAST-PREDICT Researcher wins award for research communication

Killian Making an Impact

Congratulations to BREAST-PREDICT PhD student Killian O’Brien, who recently scooped a top prize worth €2,500 at the HEA Making an Impact competition, held in The Helix in DCU on the 12th March 2014. The main objective of this competition is the effective communication of research to a lay audience, in this case secondary school students from around Ireland.

Killian, who is a biochemistry graduate from UCC, is involved in research at NUI Galway aimed at earlier detection of breast cancer, together with his supervisor Dr. Roisin O’ Dwyer. This ground-breaking work is focused on the use of a simple blood test to identify the presence of tiny molecules, called microRNAs, that can indicate the presence of breast cancer, allowing for earlier and non-invasive detection and early treatment of the disease.

Killian’s presentation was streamed live to schools and laboratories around Ireland, and can be viewed here.


BREAST-PREDICT team support Daffodil Day 2014


The Irish Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Day takes place on 28th March 2014, when thousands of volunteers around Ireland sell daffodil pins and flowers to raise money for the Society. As well as funding cancer research around Ireland, including the Collaborative Cancer Research Centre BREAST-PREDICT, the Society provides free support services for those with, and affected by, cancer in Ireland.

To do your part on Daffodil Day 2014, make a donation by phone, Call 1850 60 60 60, or text Daff to 50300 to donate €4 now!
For more information, visit www.cancer.ie.

BREAST-PREDICT researchers involved in study to identify critical gaps in breast cancer research

Research facilitated by leading charity, Breast Cancer Campaign, has identified the ten critical gaps that exist in breast cancer research, which, if not urgently addressed, could see the loss of around 185,000* lives in the UK by 2030.

This landmark research paper, published in the October issue of the international open access journal, Breast Cancer Research, is a unique collaboration of over 100 internationally recognised scientists, clinicians and healthcare professionals, including BREAST-PREDICT researchers Professor William Gallagher, University College Dublin; Professor Bryan Hennessy, Irish Co-operative Oncology Research Group; Professor Rosemary O’ Connor, University College Cork, and Professor Leonie Young, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland.

Co-authored by Professor Sue Eccles, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Professor Alastair Thompson, University of Dundee, the Gap Analysis 2013 is the most comprehensive review of breast cancer research to have ever taken place and provides us with what we need to know and what we need to do to overcome – prevent, cure and outlive – breast cancer by 2050.

The top ten gaps have been identified and prioritised in key areas, such as genetics, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and support, which, if overcome, will have a significant impact on the lives of those affected. Critical gaps include:

  • Understanding how genetic changes lead to the development of breast cancer.
  • Identifying sustainable lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, which can reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer, as well as improving risk-reducing drugs (chemoprevention) for women at increased risk of the disease.
  • Targeting breast screening to those who will most benefit, by finding accurate and practical ways to calculate someone’s individual risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Understanding the molecules and processes that encourage different types of breast cancer to grow, and those that allow breast tumours to become resistant to treatments and spread throughout the body.
  • Understanding how cancer cells with different characteristics form within a tumour, why cancer cells sometimes go into hibernation, and why some breast cancers are resistant to treatment from the outset whereas others become resistant over time.
  • Developing tests to predict how well patients will respond to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
  • Understanding how to use combinations of drugs and other therapies to improve and tailor treatment for each individual.
  • Developing better ways of using imaging to diagnose breast cancer, track how the disease responds to treatments and monitor its spread throughout the body.
  • Providing effective and practical support to help people deal with the emotional impact of breast cancer and the side effects of treatment.
  • Collecting tumour tissue and blood samples donated by breast cancer patients at different stages of their disease, alongside detailed anonymous information about each patient, to help study the disease and develop new treatments.

In addition, the paper identifies five key strategic solutions to these gaps to help treat and support those impacted by breast cancer and ultimately help more women to prevent and overcome the disease:

  • Reverse the decline in resources targeted towards breast cancer research. Funding must be increased and strategically directed to enhance our current knowledge, develop the talent pool, and apply evidence-based findings to improve clinical care.
  • Develop a fully cohesive and collaborative infrastructure to support breast cancer research, including access to appropriate, well-annotated clinical material such as longitudinal sample collection with expert bioinformatics support and data sharing.
  • Find better ways to study breast cancer and test treatments in the laboratory, and identify accurate methods to use in clinical practice to predict how patients respond to treatments.
  • Encourage collaboration between researchers in different scientific fields, including computer technology, physics and engineering, and support clinicians to do research.
    Improve clinical trial design to better meet the complexity of modern treatment options and involve patients in the design process.

Crucially, the Irish Cancer Society BREAST-PREDICT Collaborative Cancer Research Centre is already focused on addressing some of these pressing research questions. One of the main aims of the Centre is to centralise and integrate existing Irish breast cancer biobank databases, in order to create a cohesive, well-annotated national biobank and database. The collaborative approach of the BREAST-PREDICT Centre, bringing together experts in many different fields, has been proposed by the authors of this study as the optimum approach for breast cancer researchers to make the best use of increasingly complex data, essential for future advances.

The Gap Analysis article is available to download at Breast Cancer Research.

*Projected total number of female deaths from breast cancer in the UK from 2014-2030. Calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK, September 2013 based on data from Sasieni P, et al. Cancer mortality projections in the UK to 2030 (unpublished). Analyses undertaken and data supplied upon request; September 2012. Similar data can be found on the Cancer Research UK website.

Inaugural MTCI/BREAST-PREDICT Translational Cancer Research Seminar


The Inaugural MTCI/BREAST-PREDICT Translational Cancer Research Seminar was held in the Herbert Park Hotel, Ballsbridge, on Wednesday 25th September 2013. This seminar series is a joint initiative between the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Strategic Research Cluster Molecular Therapeutics for Cancer Ireland (MTCI), the Irish Cancer Society Collaborative Cancer Research Centre BREAST-PREDICT and the National Cancer Research Centre of Ireland (NCRCI), and the first event was chaired by Professor John Crown, Director of MTCI, and Professor William Gallagher, Director of BREAST-PREDICT.

The guest speaker was Professor Richard Kennedy, the McClay Chair of Experimental Medicine at the Centre for Cancer Research & Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast. Professor Kennedy is a Consultant Medical Oncologist with research interests in the area of biomarker development and drug target identification, and is also Vice-President and Medical Director at Almac Diagnostics. He discussed the future of cancer biomarkers in the clinic in his talk entitled “Transcriptional-Based Biomarkers for Cancer Patient Management”.

Launch of Irish Cancer Society Collaborative Cancer Research Centre, BREAST-PREDICT


Breast cancer researchers, Irish Cancer Society fundraisers and patient advocates gathered in the Conrad Hotel, Dublin, for the launch of the Irish Cancer Society’s first Collaborative Cancer Research Centre, BREAST-PREDICT, on Thursday 29th August 2013.

The Irish Cancer Society has brought together Ireland’s leading breast cancer researchers in a new five year collaboration that aims for better treatments for breast cancer in Ireland. BREAST-PREDICT, which will see an investment by the Society of €7.5 million over the next five years, is the country’s first Collaborative Cancer Research Centre which involves most of Ireland’s leading breast cancer researchers from a range of disciplines and a number of leading academic institutions. They will share their resources and expertise in a project designed to predict the best treatment options for breast cancer patients.

The Society is making the substantial investment of €1.5 million per year, for up to five years, to join six research institutions and ICORG in a national collaboration, bringing together the expertise and support of several pre-existing entities in the areas of population-based, translational and clinical cancer research. All eight clinical cancer centres of excellence are on board.

Over fifty leading Irish and world experts in breast cancer research will work towards and benefit from a common research goal, which will provide centralized access to resources, particularly patient samples, and technical expertise. This will lead to an integrated breast cancer database and modelling of virtual cancer patients to track prognosis and therapy response.

The first Irish Cancer Society Collaborative Cancer Research Centre will harness biological information to redefine how breast cancer is treated, with the ultimate goal of precision therapy – that is, more accurate and personalised approaches.

BREAST-PREDICT will leverage the power of systems medicine or ‘holistic’ approaches to improve understanding of response and resistance to treatments, and tackle key factors which are hampering international progress in the breast cancer research arena, such as access to tumour samples collected from the same patient over time to look at how tumours adapt, and improved insight into signalling networks within tumours.

Commenting on the announcement, Director of the Irish Cancer Society Collaborative Cancer Research Centre BREAST-PREDICT, UCD Professor William Gallagher said, “The Collaborative Cancer Research Centre will for the first time in Ireland harness the wealth of data available on breast cancer from around the globe to inform new clinical trials and treatments, and link in with world leading scientists and intuitions such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the Cambridge Research Institute in the UK. The ultimate goal of this research is personalised medicine, which allows us to tailor therapy towards individual patients based on the characteristics of their particular tumour and, thus, improve outcomes for breast cancer patients both in Ireland and worldwide.”

He added, “We are most grateful to the Irish Cancer Society for their incredibly generous support as we strive to work together as a critical mass in the battle against breast cancer, and deliver initial and hopefully important research findings in our first year.”

Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, Prof John Fitzpatrick said, “The Collaborative Cancer Research Centre is by far the biggest thing the Irish Cancer Society has ever done in the area of cancer research in Ireland. BREAST-PREDICT is the first in a series of such Centres that will lead large-scale international collaborative projects in the oncology area.”

He added, “I’m very proud to say the €7.5 million investment by the Society has come entirely from fundraising, in part due to worthwhile Breast Cancer Awareness Month initiatives such as the Get the Girls appeal. We need ongoing support to fulfill our strategy to introduce new centres that will deliver excellent research for the benefit of patients, and we encourage the public to share in this goal by fundraising on behalf of the Irish Cancer Society this October.”

The Irish Cancer Society has contributed more than €30 million to cancer research since 1963. During that period, more than 650 important research findings have been made.

For further information or for any questions about this funding, please contact the Irish Cancer Society research team on research@irishcancer.ie. For further information on the Irish Cancer Society’s research programme, Collaborative Cancer Research Centre or to make a donation, visit www.cancer.ie or contact the Irish Cancer Society on Call Save 1850 60 60 60.


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