University College Cork – Dental School – Ranked in the Top 100 by Shanghai Global Rankings

UCC – Dental School & Hospital has ranked in the top 100 by Shanghai Rankings!

Shanghai Rankings – Dentistry & Oral Sciences 

About University College Cork Dental Program:

The Dental School in Cork was established in 1913 through a partnership between University College Cork and the North Infirmary Hospital. The Dental School was initially staffed by local volunteer dentists, followed quickly by full-time staff. Over the following decades, The Dental School grew organically in size and scope.

In 1967, University College Cork assumed full operation of the Dental School and subsequently moved it to the Cork University Hospital. The new location allowed the school to continue serving the community, educating dental care staff, while expanding its capacity for dental research.

Today, University College Cork is the principal university in the province of Munster and the largest outside Dublin. UCC has over 12,000 students and an academic staff of over 1,700.

Click Here to read more about the UCC Dentistry Program

Leading the Global fight against COVID-19

Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme

Dr Michael Ryan

A graduate of National University of Ireland, Galway, Dr Mike Ryan has been at the forefront of managing acute risks to global health for nearly 25 years. He served as Assistant Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response in WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme from 2017 to 2019.

Dr Ryan first joined WHO in 1996, with the newly established unit to respond to emerging and epidemic disease threats. He has worked in conflict affected countries and led many responses to high impact epidemics. He is a founding member of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), which has aided the response to hundreds of disease outbreaks around the world. He served as Coordinator of Epidemic Response (2000-2003), Operational Coordinator of WHO’s response to the SARS outbreak (2003), and as WHO’s Director of Global Alert and Response (2005-2011),

He was a Senior Advisor on Polio Eradication for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative from 2013 to 2017, deploying to countries in the Middle East.

He completed medical training at the National University of Ireland, Galway, a Master’s in Public Health at University College Dublin, and specialist training in communicable disease control at the Health Protection Agency in London and the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training.

Delegation of authority from WHO Director-General

Irish medical school students learning about Sarnia area

A relationship with the Sarnia Lambton Physician Recruitment Task Force formed with an overseas medical school could pay future dividends for the community.

Of six Visiting Elective Program spots this year matching fourth-year medical students with local family physicians, three are from the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) and have been spending four weeks this summer living in Sarnia observing and learning from  Dr. John O’Mahony.

Recruiter Carly Cox said the task force actually awarded six visiting elective bursaries this year, but some of the students weren’t able to take part because of the pandemic.

Three of the recipients currently in the community are attending medical school in Ireland but are from the Toronto area, she said.

“These are spots that are very difficult to come by because physicians do not get paid to train these individuals,” Cox said.

Also, the program the visiting electives usually go at through at Western University’s medical school was canceled because of the pandemic.

“We had our RCSI students reach out to us individually and say, ‘I’m still very interested in doing the elective. Can we do it privately?’”

Because the three students were already home from Ireland, restrictions preventing students from overseas traveling to Canada weren’t an obstacle.

Cox said the task force worked with the RCSI to ensure the students were able to still take part in the placement in Sarnia, where they have been able to observe many aspects of clinical practice, emergency medicine, nursing home care and obstetrics with O’Mahony

“Sarnia Lambton has so much to offer from a lifestyle perspective and our amazing medical community,” O’Mahony said. “You would not be able to appreciate what Sarnia Lambton has to offer unless you spend time in the community meeting our citizens and working in our great hospital.”

The program allows the task force to introduce medical students to Lambton as a potential place to live and set up practice in the future.

“It’s really important we expose them to what a lifestyle is like here because it’s so competitive,” Cox said. “If we make a connection with them in medical school, stay connected with them through their residency, we hope they’ll practice here.”

The fourth-year students taking part in the visiting elective program are at least three years away from beginning their practices, she said.

The RCSI students spending time in Sarnia this summer – William Elia, Samuel Goh, and Vladimir Djedovic – indicated on their applications they had an interest in working in smaller communities and taking advantage of the wider scope they can offer a family practice.

 

Source: Click here

In global health terms we have treated surgery as icing on the cake’

Surgery is as key as vaccination, nutrition, and mother-and-child health, says RSCI professor Mark Shrime

Dr Mark Shrime spends several weeks a year operating on tumour patients on “Mercy Ships” off the coast of Africa. He spends several further weeks a year competing in the US television contest American Ninja Warrior. You can conclude accurately from this that Shrime, the new O’Brien professor of global surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, or RCSI, is someone who knows what he wants from life. So, you might be surprised to hear that when he first started training as a doctor, he hated it.

“I didn’t want to go into medicine,” he says, speaking from Boston. “What I really wanted was to be a linguist. I’m Lebanese by descent. I was born in Lebanon. We are an immigrant family to the US and as the firstborn son of an immigrant family you have three options – doctor or lawyer or failure. So I chose to go to medical school. And honestly, I just hated it. I really hated medical school.”

He even went on to choose his speciality – otolaryngology, the study of diseases of the ear and throat – “for all the wrong reasons,” he says.

It was an epiphany, walking down the stairs of the ship, turning and seeing a dozen patients with head and neck tumours and thinking, Oh, this is what I’ve been training to do

“I made the decision to find something that would let me get as much money as possible but also work as little as possible so that I could do all the other things that I wanted to do, which in retrospect is a stupid way to choose your life’s career.”

Things changed for him, he says, when he first volunteered with Mercy Ships in Liberia in January 2008. Mercy Ships dock ships equipped with surgeries and medical staff off the coast of developing nations to provide much needed surgery to locals.

“It was literally an epiphany moment, walking down the stairs of the ship… turning and seeing a dozen patients with head and neck tumours and having this ‘Oh, this is what I’ve been training to do.’ After 15 years of post-secondary education, which I really hated, it just clicked.” For the first time, the path he’d taken to please his father “made sense. It hadn’t made sense to me before”.

He was further guided by a Mercy Ships surgeon named Gary Parker. “I asked Gary, ‘How do you make big life decisions?’ And he said that he looks 30 years down the road at the best possible outcome of each option. And if one of the best possible outcomes makes him think, meh, then he knows that’s not the right decision. [So] I looked 30 years down the line at being an academic head and neck surgeon at a big city hospital in the US. I was good at it and I liked my patients and they liked me, but… then I’d retire in 30 years with a nice house and a Jaguar… It just didn’t inspire me. That’s when I knew that global surgery couldn’t just be a once-a-year fly in for two weeks thing, it really had to be what my life was about.”

Mark Shrime and Jason Savage, Max Fax Surgeons, work in the Mercy Ship operating room alongside mentee Diegane Faye. Photograph: Lara Arkinstall
Mark Shrime and Jason Savage, Max Fax Surgeons, work in the Mercy Ship operating
room alongside mentee Diegane Faye. Photograph: Lara Arkinstall

And it is. Shrime has co-authored the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, founded the Center for Global Surgery Evaluation at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, was assistant professor of otolaryngology and global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School and has worked and taught in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Benin, Togo, Congo, Haiti, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon, Senegal, and Madagascar.

When it comes to international public health, he says, surgery is often overlooked. “We in the global health space, for a long time, have treated surgery as kind of icing on the cake,” he says. “Once we figure out vaccination, once we figure out nutrition and maternal and child health, then we start thinking about surgery.”

He thinks this is misguided. “When you quantify the burden of diseases as a whole around the world every year, surgically treatable conditions make up about 30 per cent of that… To give you a sort of back-of-the-napkin comparison, HIV, TB and malaria make up 10 per cent.”

He understands the resistance. Unlike disease interventions that involve distributing medicine, surgical interventions involve a high upfront cost. “Bringing surgery up to the level of other interventions means not just training surgeons and anaesthesiologists; it also means training nurses and training biomed tech-providers who can fix the machines that break. It means finding the infrastructure itself… It’s this supercomplex ecosystem.”

Here in the US and in, say, Madagascar, people are constantly making this trade off in their own minds. Should I risk going to the hospital right now, knowing it might impoverish me?

Shrime comments a lot on political issues on Twitter – the protests in the US, health inequities and the mismanagement of the Covid-19 virus. Has working in this field politicised him?

“I do think there are a lot of us who work in public health who are of the same kind of political bent, because we see how acutely decisions that we have made in the past and decisions that we make around funding and around what we focus on have very specific effects on human beings and on their health and on their lives.

“It drives a lot of us to start thinking in this kind of structural way, ‘Yes, I can fly in and spend two weeks and do some surgeries’. And I will have hopefully helped those particular patients. But I won’t necessarily have changed the underlying reason that I had to fly in in the first place.”

Patients in the US often have surprisingly similar dilemmas to those he sees in developing countries. “There was a paper that came out in 2009 that I quote all the time that said that 62 per cent of bankruptcy in the US is attributable to medical costs,” he says. “Here in the US and in, say, Madagascar, people are constantly making this trade off in their own minds. Should I risk going to the hospital right now, knowing that it might impoverish me?”

He considers the idea of being “political” for a moment. “A couple of things that I think about a lot, especially with Black Lives Matter in the middle of a pandemic, is that every choice that we make is inherently political. To choose to speak about [Black Lives Matter] is very obviously political. To choose to interrogate and see and even think about the structures that underpin racial inequities in healthcare, to even talk about those structures is political. [But] to choose not to speak about this is no less political. To say things like ‘I don’t see race’ is a political statement, as well.”

Black Americans are more likely to die if they get Covid. They are more likely to be essential workers and so not able to isolate… and they’re more likely to be shot by the police

He sees health inequality as being structurally linked to police brutality. “Black Americans are more likely to die if they get Covid,” he says. “They are more likely to be essential workers and therefore not able to isolate; their businesses are more likely to have been affected by the lockdowns and they’re more likely to be shot by the police. They are less likely to be able to access care when they need it. The fact that we see higher mortality in black Americans and Hispanic Americans in Covid, there may very well be some genetic component to that… but for sure it’s also the inevitable outcome of the structures that we have in place.”

He has also been disappointed by the US leadership’s approach to the Covid crisis. “If there’s one thing that defines Americans, it’s individualism. And we adhere to that really strongly, too strongly, in my mind, to the detriment of our collective wellbeing… Our leadership hasn’t just done nothing. They have pushed in on that. Why in the heck is it a political statement to wear a mask?… When you have a leadership that denies the existence of a pandemic, that minimises it, that says it’s nothing but the flu, those words have an effect… You see it reflected in the actions of the rest of us.”

He’s curious about why Ireland has been so much better at dealing with Covid despite only having a caretaker government until now. I spend a few minutes trying to explain our system and political culture. He once spent time in Galway as a tourist 15 years ago and has no real connections with Ireland other than a desire to head up the RSCI’s newly developed Institute of Global Surgery.

He’s been impressed by the way the college has trained surgeons in tandem with the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa and developed new ways of delivering quality surgical care to patients in that region.

“There’s been this organic growing up of a global surgery movement within the RCSI, but for them to decide, that ‘We are going to prioritise this, this is going to be one of our pillars, to attract students and researchers specifically around global surgery,’ that’s a bold and risky commitment and shows some real leadership… And to walk into a position like that, where everybody seems to be on the same page, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

One thing made him hesitate. The new RCSI professor of global surgery is also a three-time contestant on American Ninja Warrior, a US version of a Japanese programme, in which contestants traverse a gruelling obstacle course.

“I’m not going to lie, it was one of the hardest things to consider giving up, to come for this job.”

How did he get involved in it? “I was watching some episodes at one o’clock in the morning – when all the best decisions are made,” he says. “And I was, like, ‘I can do this.’ They get 75,000 applications a year and I was a 41-year-old nerdy surgeon from Boston – but they called me.”

He had been a recreational climber for seven years at that point but he still found it gruelling. Ultimately, he was hooked. “I did alright in my first season. I did absolutely terribly last year, like, genuinely awful. But that’s the nature of the sport… You get up on the obstacle course and the minute you fall. That’s it. You’re done.”

It’s good to fail sometimes, he says. “One of the pieces of advice I give to doctors coming up through the system is to take up activities that are inherently risky – not risky to your life but things at which you will fail. Once you get on the medical training path, you’re on this path that’s been prescribed for you from high school to retirement. And we aren’t used to failing.

“Besides the athleticism, the thing that Ninja has given me most is a comfort with taking these risks, comfort with, honestly, flying to a country where I’ve basically never been to take a leadership position in an institution I don’t know.” He laughs. “The RCSI doesn’t know this, but one of my goals is to start Irish Ninja Warrior.”

The Irish Medical Council (IMC) has been awarded Recognition Status by The World Federation for Medical Education (WFME)

The World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) has awarded recognition status to the Medical Council of Ireland (MCI). The Medical Council of Ireland is the sole authority for accrediting, regulating and ensuring the quality of education for the Irish Medical Schools.  RCSI – Medical University of Bahrain is also accredited by the Medical Council of Ireland.

WFME Recognition Status has been awarded for ten years with immediate effect.

The Medical Council was established by the Medical Practitioners act 1978 (updated in 2007) and is made up of 25 members, including members of the public, doctors, representatives from teaching bodies and a range of other stakeholders. The members include those who are nominated by the Minister for Health or by other organisations and members who are elected by doctors. MCI is noteworthy among medical regulators in the world as it has a majority of non-medical members. All appointments to the Council are approved by the Minister for Health. In Ireland, only medical schools accredited by the Medical Council can legally award medical degrees.

WFME is satisfied that the accreditation process, post-accreditation monitoring and decision making by MCI when it accredits these medical schools and faculties is to an appropriate and rigorous standard.

The WFME Recognition Programme follows the same principles as a medical school accreditation system: evaluation of documentation, policies and procedures; a site visit; and a decision taken by an independent committee with reference to pre-defined criteria.

The WFME Recognition Programme aims to raise the standards of medical education worldwide, through ensuring that national and regional accrediting agencies are acting in an appropriate, robust and transparent way. The intention is for all eligible accrediting agencies to be evaluated by WFME or to an equivalent standard. There are about 120 organisations listed in the Directory of Organizations that Recognize/Accredit Medical Schools (DORA). 23 accrediting agencies have been recognised by WFME to date, and a further 11 have formally commenced the process. A further 13 organisations are in active communication with WFME regarding their application.

Press Release 3 June 2020

Medical Council of Ireland (MCI) – Ireland

Press release

MCI website

WFME Recognition Programme

Directory of Organizations that Recognize/Accredit Medical Schools (DORA)

New Discovery Provides Hope for Improved MS Therapies

Scientists from Trinity have made an important discovery that could lead to more effective treatments for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Their work highlights the significant potential of drugs targeting a specific immune molecule (IL-17) implicated in MS.

The scientists, led by Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology, and Aoife McGinley, Postdoctoral Fellow, in Trinity’s School of Biochemistry and Immunology have published their results today in the prestigious Cell press journal, Immunity.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating disease that affects around 2.3 million people globally and over 9,000 people in Ireland. It is associated with infiltration of immune cells into the brain and spinal cord that cause damage to nerves, leading to neurological disabilities.

However, the cause and precise immunological basis to this autoimmune disease is still unclear.

Studies in a mouse model of MS, called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), have shown that immune ‘T cells’, which secrete an immune molecule called ‘IL-17’, cause damage to the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves in the central nervous system (CNS).

Early clinical trials with antibody-based drugs that block IL-17 are showing promise in the treatment of relapsing-remitting (RR) MS and have already been licensed for the treatment of psoriasis, another common autoimmune disease.

The just-published study from Professor Mills’ research group outlines an entirely new role for IL-17 in EAE and, potentially, in MS.

Professor Mills said:

“Our team found that IL-17 plays a critical ‘priming’ role in kick-starting the disease-causing immune response that mediates the damage in EAE and MS.

The new research shows that, instead of playing a direct part in CNS pathology, a key role of IL-17 is to mobilise and activate an army of disease-causing immune cells in the lymph nodes that then migrate to the CNS to cause the nerve damage.”

Dr Aoife McGinley added:

“Crucially, our findings suggest that drugs that block IL-17 may not need to get across the blood-brain-barrier to be effective in treating MS.

So, as well as shedding new light on the importance of IL-17 as a drugs target in RR MS, our research highlights the huge potential of drugs that block IL-17 in the treatment of other autoimmune diseases, such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.”

RCSI Continues to Monitor the Spread of COVID-19

At present, with no reported cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ireland, RCSI will continue to carry out its normal day-to-day functions and all planned events, but the situation will be monitored closely.

Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team is meeting weekly to continue its review of the country’s ongoing preparedness in line with advice from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in Ireland, the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Within RCSI, a working group is meeting once a week, and more often when required, to update our plans based on any changes to the public advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team, the WHO and ECDC. The group is being advised by RCSI Professors Sam McConkey and Hilary Humphreys and Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick.

This is a fast-moving situation and staff and students will be updated by email as the situation evolves and in response to the guidance being issued by the relevant authorities.

Advice and guidance
The most up-to-date source of guidance is the Opens in new windowHealth Protection Surveillance Centre, which has developed a helpful FAQ. In addition to general information, it also includes information on prevention, signs/symptoms/travel advice and the global situation.

 

Travel guidance
In response to Irish and international public health guidance and official travel advisories, RCSI Travel is restricting travel to and from China.

In respect of personal travel, RCSI is strongly advising staff and students not to travel to China or travel from China to Ireland. If you any queries, please contact the Health and Safety Office.

If you have returned to Ireland from an affected area in the last 14 days, you are asked to stay at home for 14 days and notify RCSI’s Health and Safety Office and your line manager. Please also ring your local Opens in new windowDepartment of Public Health and they will advise you of the next steps over the phone. Do not present at your GP surgery or an ED.

Staff must notify the RCSI Health and Safety Office if visitors from an affected area are due to visit RCSI before any travel arrangements are made.

Symptoms and prevention
Common signs of infection include:

  • Respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties
  • Fever
  • In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include:

  • Regular hand washing
  • Covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing as part of respiratory etiquette
  • Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as cough or sneezing

If you are unwell on return from travel to an affected area, stay at home and call your local Opens in new windowDepartment of Public Health. Do not present at an Emergency department or at your GP practice. There is further information available on the Opens in new windowHPSC website.

This is a potentially worrying time for staff and students, and parents, most particularly for those with family and friends in the affected regions. It is possible that members of the RCSI community may experience discrimination or alienation over the coming period. Respect is a core value of RCSI and it is important that we show our support to any colleague or student who may be affected.

Understanding How a Protein Wreaks Havoc in the Brain in Parkinson’s Disease

What causes neurons to die in Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a long-term (chronic) neurological condition that affects around 12,000 people in Ireland and between 7 and 10 million people worldwide.

The disease affects the way the brain co-ordinates body movements like walking and talking, but cognitive abilities are also affected.

There is currently no cure for the disease, but researchers at Trinity have recently published findings of a study which may lead to better treatments for this debilitating illness. The paper has been published in the international Cell Press journal Structure.

Neurons in the part of the brain called ‘substantia nigra’ (dark matter) produce and release a hormone called dopamine. This hormone acts as a messenger between these cells in the substantia nigra and other parts of the brain which control body movements.

“If these specialised neurons become damaged or die, the amount of dopamine in the brain is reduced. This means that the parts of the brain that control movement cease to function normally. The only treatment for Parkinson’s disease in the last 20 years has been dopamine replacement therapy. This involves providing a substitute to try to increase the levels of the hormone in the brain. However, the treatment is not completely effective and can wear off over time, and it also has side effects,”

said Amir Khan, Associate professor, School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity.

“The main reason why we lack new treatments is that we don’t understand the fundamental mechanism of how neurons become sick and die. No one knows why these particular neurons in the substantia nigra are affected.”

“In the last few years, the field has completely changed. We have new insight into a gene called LRRK2, which is the most common cause of inherited Parkinson’s disease. Although only 10% of Parkinson’s cases are inherited, the enzyme that is produced by the LRRK2 gene seems to be overactive in both inherited and ‘sporadic’ cases.” 

“In other words, afflicted individuals may not have an LRRK2 mutation, but the enzyme ‘runs amok’ in their neurons anyway. Inhibitors of this enzyme are now in late clinical trials for treatment of Parkinson’s disease.”

The team at Trinity has studied the effects that LRRK2 has on other proteins in neuronal cells. To understand how LRRK2 affects the brain and leads to Parkinson’s disease, the team has simulated the activity of the enzyme in the laboratory.

“The research allowed us to visualize the 3-D structure of a protein complex that is formed when LRRK2 is overactive. From these structural studies of proteins, we can understand how LRRK2 is able to impose its profound effects on neurons. We are the first group to report the effects of LRRK2 in 3-D detail using a method called X-ray crystallography,“ Professor Khan continued.

An overactive LRRK2 runs loose in neurons and wreaks havoc on motor and cognitive abilities. In a way, we are chasing the footprints that LRRK2 leaves in the brain to understand what it does, and find ways to stop it.”

“We are hopeful that these studies may eventually lead to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, for which there is currently no cure.”

 

RCSI professor wins international prize for research in life sciences

RCSI Professor Kevin McGuigan (Physiology and Medical Physics) has been awarded the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences among two other winners.

Professor McGuigan was honoured for his cutting-edge research on the development and implementation of solar water disinfection technology (SODIS) to combat waterborne diseases among people without access to safe drinking water in Africa and Asia.

 

His approach to this research is unique and pioneering, in both the laboratory and in the field, among the communities most exposed to waterborne diseases in developing countries. His research group demonstrated the impact using SODIS on childhood diarrhoea in 1996 and then on dysentery. SODIS has since demonstrated its effectiveness against all major waterborne pathogens.

More recently, the EU-funded WATERSPOUTT project, which is coordinated by Professor McGuigan, has developed three solar water disinfection technologies that are currently being field tested in Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda and South Africa.

He is also the research coordinator for PANI-water, a four-year project that is developing six prototypes that will be deployed in rural and peri-urban areas in India.

“I’m honoured to receive this award in recognition of the work our group has accomplished over the past 30 years,” said Professor McGuigan.

“Nearly 5 million people use solar water disinfection on a daily basis to meet their water requirements. Nevertheless, we have an expanding global population relying on a shrinking reserve of safe water, which is vulnerable to contaminants of emerging concern. There is no time to rest on our laurels. The fight to provide access to safe water for all continues.”

Professor McGuigan was awarded alongside Professor Cato Laurencin (USA) and Professor Youyou Tu (China).

Professor Youyou Tu of the Chinese Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, laureate of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine, is recognised for her research into parasitic diseases. She discovered an entirely new anti-malarial treatment, artemisinin, which made possible the treatment of thousands of patients in China in the 1980s.

Professor Laurencin, a teacher, biomedical engineer and orthopaedic surgeon, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering and the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery. His outstanding contributions to the advancement of science have been recognised worldwide.

RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences is ranked among the top 250 (top 2%) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2020) and its research is ranked first in Ireland for citations. It is an international not-for-profit university, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide. RCSI has been awarded Athena Swan Bronze accreditation for positive gender practice in higher education.

Researchers develop Potential New Treatment Approach for Breast Cancer

 

Irish cancer researchers have developed a potential new treatment approach for a form of breast cancer, which can be difficult to treat.

The Opens in new windowBREAST-PREDICT researchers at RCSI focused on a form of cancer that affects around one in eight breast cancer patients.

The type of cancer targeted – invasive lobular breast cancer – has been understudied to date, leaving patients without tailored treatment options. The discovery in the paper is now paving the way for more personalised treatment of this form of cancer.

Dr Louise Walsh, joint author of the paper with Dr Kathryn Haley, was supervised by Professor Darran O’Connor and Dr Tríona Ní Chonghaile in RCSI. Opens in new windowIrish Cancer Society and Opens in new windowBreast Cancer Now funded the paper, which is published in Opens in new windowClinical Cancer Research.

Speaking on the discovery, Dr Walsh said: “To know the long hours I spent in the lab have identified novel research findings that will hopefully ensure a better treatment path for patients with this cancer is incredible.

“I’m proud to have played a role in discovering a potential way to target this cancer and improve outcomes for patients in the future. No one is unaffected by cancer in Ireland, but research is the tool we have to ensure that more people can overcome a cancer diagnosis in their life.”

This potential new treatment, a combination approach that comprises two different drugs, blocks molecules in breast cancer cells that control cell growth and survival. The researchers suggest that this treatment approach may be useful for patients who no longer respond to standard therapies. The team are now in the final stages of testing this treatment in the laboratory, supported by additional funding from the Opens in new windowSusan G. Komen’s Foundation, before they hope to advance to clinical trial stage.

Invasive lobular breast cancer accounts for roughly one in eight newly diagnosed breast cancer cases. When caught early, treatments with surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy can be effective, but this type of breast cancer can be more difficult to detect at these early stages. As the cancer advances, it can spread to other organs and become resistant to chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

The new findings were unveiled today as the Irish Cancer Society urges the public to get involved in Opens in new windowCups Against Breast Cancer, a fundraising campaign which aims to raise money for breast cancer research and support services for people affected by breast cancer.

Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, Dr Robert O’Connor, said: “New treatment options for this cancer subtype are urgently needed, so this discovery is hugely important for patients who might benefit from a tailored approach to their treatment.

“This research is an example of the vital work of BREAST-PREDICT, made possible by the country’s support of fundraising campaigns like Cups Against Breast Cancer. This October, members of the public can help fund more lifesaving cancer research and free services for people affected by breast cancer by hosting a coffee morning on 11 October.”