February 2014

Opening Doors on Cancer Research

Sun, 2 February 14 09:00

Cancer survivors and patient advocacy groups met academics, clinicians and scientists involved in cancer research in the first UCD Ireland East Cancer Open House held on Thursday, 23rd and Friday, 24th January 2014 in University College Dublin.

This unique event provided a window to the myriad of stakeholders embroiled in the battle against cancer and the opportunity to personalise the contributions each are making. It emphasised the requirement for connectivity and engagement among all players in the battle against cancer in order to achieve improved outcomes for patients.

Participants in the cancer open house tours on Thursday, 23rd January in UCD Conway Institute for Biomolecular & Biomedical Research and Systems Biology Ireland were given insights to the projects and technologies within the research pipeline by postdoctoral researchers and PhD graduates working at the coal-face of cancer research. 

2014 IE Cancer Open House
Particpants on one of eight laboratory tours during the Ireland East Cancer Open House in UCD Conway Institute 

"We spoke to participants about how we use complex mathematical networks to model cancer systems with a view to developing new drugs and targeted therapies”, said Philip Smyth, Education & Outreach Officer with Systems Biology Ireland.

Prof John Crown (UCD Newman Clinical Professor & Consultant Oncologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital) spoke to participants about the future of drug treatments as therapies become both personalised and targeted.

The focus of the meeting shifted on Friday, 24 January in the Kevin Barry Gallery, UCD Charles Institute to the potential for advancing the scientific programme of cancer research within the Ireland East network. Nineteen clinicians and academics partners briefed the group on their areas of research expertise before moving onto moderated round table discussions on clinical trial networks, strategies for cancer research funding, stakeholder connectivity and identifying priorities for action. 

Clinicians from all hospitals in the Ireland East Hospital Group discussed collaborative opportunities with biomedical scientists from Ireland’s leading multidisciplinary research institutes, the UCD Conway Institute and Systems Biology Ireland.

Two distinguished international cancer researchers presented their experience of leading major US cancer research institutes at Emory University and Harvard Medical School. UCD Alumnus Professor Ruth O’Regan (UCD Medicine 1988, Professor of Haematology & Medical Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute) described her experience leading the translational breast oncology programme at Emory University.

Professor Ken Anderson (Kraft Family Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director, Jerome Lipper Myeloma Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) provided an update on therapeutic targets in multiple myeloma. Both guest speakers facilitated round-table discussions between patient groups, biomedical researchers and clinicians.

UCD Ireland East cancer open house was organised by Dr Amanda McCann along with colleagues in the UCD Translational Oncology research group and our UCD Medicine Research Office. 

Dr McCann said,

“Translational oncology is the crucial bridge that enables scientific discoveries to be applied in clinical practice thereby inevitably improving patient outcomes”.

The recent creation of the Ireland East network of hospitals provides a catchment population of 1.7 million people. It includes the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and St Vincent’s University Hospital that together currently treat the largest numbers of patients affected by all the major cancers (breast, prostate, colorectal, lung, pancreas) within the country. 

This critical mass of clinicians and researchers within this network provides huge opportunities for enriched basic research collaboration and crucially will greatly enhance interactions with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

Professor Walter Kolch, Director of Systems Biology Ireland & UCD Conway Institute said,

“As a scientist, you often become engrossed in the complexities and painstaking detail of the experimental process, losing sight of the wider perspective. This cancer open house event provides a unique opportunity to connect with and be inspired by the people I hope will ultimately benefit from our fundamental research programmes.

It also underscores the main aim of Horizon 2020, the new European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation that will fund €70 million worth of research projects, which is to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people.”

About Ireland East Hospital Group
In May 2013, following the publication of the Higgins Report, the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly announced his intention to restructure all acute hospitals into six hospital networks. Each network contains a designated academic partner. UCD is the academic partner to the Ireland East Hospital Group, which contains the following clinical partners: Mater Misericordiae University Hospital; St Vincent's University Hospital; Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar; St Luke's General Hospital Kilkenny; Wexford General Hospital; National Maternity Hospital; Our Lady's Hospital Navan; St Columcille's Hospital; St Michael’s Hospital Dun Laoghaire; Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital; Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital.

The Minister has appointed Mr Thomas Lynch as chairman of the Ireland East hospital group. Boards are to be established and executive teams recruited. The expectation is that these hospital groups will in due course evolve into independent hospital trusts under a universal health insurance model. 

Article by Ms Elaine Quinn, Institute Manager (Communications & Education), UCD Conway Institute

Reproduced with permission.