April 2015 Press Releases

Queen’s scientists discover prolonged statin use may lower risk of lung cancer death
Queen’s scientists discover prolonged statin use may lower risk of lung cancer death

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have found that lung cancer patients who used statins in the year prior to a lung cancer diagnosis or after a lung cancer diagnosis had a reduction in the risk of death from the disease.

Dr Chris Cardwell, PhD, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “The magnitude of the association was relatively small and, as with all observational studies, there is the possibility of confounding—meaning that simvastatin [a type of statin] users may have differed from simvastatin nonusers in other ways that could have protected them from death from cancer, for which we could not correct. However, this finding is worthy of further investigation in observational studies.

“If replicated in further observational studies, this would provide evidence in favour of conducting a randomised, controlled trial of simvastatin in lung cancer patients. We hope to conduct a similar observational study in a large cohort of lung cancer patients from Northern Ireland.”

Dr Cardwell and colleagues used data from nearly 14,000 patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer between 1998 and 2009 from English cancer registry data. They gathered the patients’ prescription records from the U.K. Clinical Practice Research Datalink and mortality data up to 2012 from the Office of National Statistics.

Among patients who survived at least six months after a diagnosis, those who used statins after a lung cancer diagnosis had a statistically non-significant 11 percent reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths. Among those who used at least 12 prescriptions of statins there was a statistically significant 19 percent reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths, and among those who used lipophilic statins such as simvastatin there was a 19 percent reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths as well.

Among all patients in the study, those who used statins in the year before a lung cancer diagnosis had a statistically significant 12 percent reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths.

The outcomes were not different between non-small cell lung cancer patients and small cell lung cancer patients in the study.

This study was funded by the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland.

For media inquiries please contact Queen’s University Communications Office on 028 9097 3091 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk


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Evidence Aid researchers join international effort in Nepal

Researchers from Evidence Aid based at Queen’s University Belfast have joined international efforts in Nepal following the devastating earthquake in which 5,000 people are known to have died and more than 10,000 have been injured.

Evidence Aid, led by academics at Queen’s University is an international initiative set up to provide the latest evidence on the effects of interventions before, during and after disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. It helps people distinguish what works from what doesn’t work, and to avoid what might be harmful. Today Evidence Aid is providing much needed knowledge support to health workers in Nepal. Through its key partners in the region and in international agencies such as the United Nations and World Health Organisation, it’s providing evidence-based resources to help focus relief efforts.

Evidence Aid provides free access to reliable, independent summaries of the effects of different interventions, actions and strategies. Many of these come from the Cochrane Collaboration, the foremost source of robust research evidence for healthcare globally. Evidence Aid was founded by Cochrane’s former global chair, Professor Mike Clarke, now at Queen’s University Belfast, the day after the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day 2004.

Professor Mike Clarke, based in the Centre for Public Health in Queen’s University Belfast said “The people of Nepal need to receive effective aid, based on robust evidence. We’re making this information available free to all, helping people make the best possible decisions and choices amidst the chaos and the devastation.”

The information is available free from the Evidence Aid website. It covers injuries, mental health and water-borne diseases; as well many other health topics relevant to the recovery of the tens of thousands of people affected by the earthquake. Whether someone’s got a computer or a smartphone, they can get the knowledge. It shows, for instance, that although you’re usually as safe washing a wound with tap water as with expensive sterile saline; if clean, drinkable water is precious after a disaster, there are better uses for it. It’s obvious, really, but chaos can get in the way of clear thinking. As another example, if you’re worried about post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD among the survivors, the evidence shows that a type of psychological counselling known as brief de-briefing is probably useless, if not harmful.

Since the earthquake, Evidence Aid has been in contact with members of the Cochrane Collaboration based in Nepal and, through them, frontline health workers in the country. It is also working through its partners in national and international agencies, to get the message to the response teams who are already there or on their way.

Claire Allen, Knowledge Manager for Evidence Aid said "We got in contact with colleagues in the region as soon as we heard about the earthquake. They’re telling us how useful the resources are and how they are being shared."

For media inquiries please contact Michelle Cassidy, Queen’s Communications Office on +4428 9097 5310 or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

Or contact Professor Mike Clarke, Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast email: m.clarke@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s student wins prestigious UK-wide science competition

A medical student from Queen’s University Belfast has been crowned the winner of the prestigious science communication competition, FameLab UK.

Emer Maguire, a Clinical Anatomy Masters student at Queen’s, went go head to head with ten other finalists in the UK final of FameLab - the world's largest science communication competition — at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London yesterday.

Her winning talk focused on the ‘science of love’, explaining why people are not always to blame for acting a little crazy when in love. She becomes the second female winner in the competition’s ten-year history.

She was awarded £1750 to further her career in science communication and will also move on to the FameLab International Final at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival in June. Here she will compete with scientists from 27 countries around the world to be crowned overall FameLab champion.

Emer, from Strabane, got through to the final after being crowned champion at the Northern Ireland heat back in February in the Black Box, Belfast. Speaking from London about her FameLab UK win, Emer said: “I can’t actually believe I’ve won – I’m still in shock and I don't think it's sunk in just yet. I didn’t think I had a chance of winning and felt that I was a bit of an underdog, so this is unbelievable, but it feels amazing.

“I’m so proud to win the title for Northern Ireland and the support I’ve received has been unreal. My family held a big party in Strabane last night and live-streamed the final. I think they were all a bit emotional, with my mum and granny being very teary eyed, but it’s so nice to have them behind me.”

 The FameLab UK final at the Bloomsbury Theatre can be viewed online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ze4aRoLKzg (Emer was last up and appears around 1:39) Find out more at http://nireland.britishcouncil.org

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5384.

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Queen's develops 'app' to help election voters

Researchers at Queen’s have come up with a novel user-friendly ‘app’ to help members of the public decide who to vote for in the upcoming general election.

The WhoGetsMyVoteUK app asks voters a range of questions, including some Northern Ireland-specific ones, in order to identify which party most closely matches a voter’s values. It can be accessed on a smartphone, tablet or any other gadget with internet access: http://www.whogetsmyvoteuk.com/.

This Northern Ireland Voting Advice Application (VAA) was developed by researchers at the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy (PISP) at Queen's as part of a larger UK-wide project led by researchers at Queen Mary in London.

The Belfast Telegraph is hosting the app and an article in the paper, written by PISP's Dr John Garry and Dr Neil Matthews, may be accessed here 

The app asks voters to answer a series of policy questions, relating to economic and social issues, as well as specific Northern Ireland issues such as flags and parading. Because the app includes questions on issues that do not usually get prominence in Northern Ireland (such as left-right issues or liberal-conservative issues) some voters may be surprised about the party they are closely matched with. 

Media inquiries to Dr John Garry, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Political Science at Queen's on j.garry@qub.ac.uk, or Dr Neil Matthews, Research Fellow, School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen's, on N.Matthews@qub.ac.uk


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Queen’s University Belfast appoints new Chancellor

Queen's University today announced the appointment of leading Irish-American businessman and noted humanitarian, Thomas J Moran, as its new Chancellor.

A native New Yorker with ancestral roots in Fermanagh and Cavan, Tom Moran is listed as one of the top 100 Irish-American business people in the USA. He has been President and Chief Executive Officer of the Mutual of America Life Insurance Company since October 1994, the first person to have been appointed President from within the Company.

He is also Chairman of Concern Worldwide (US), Inc., an international humanitarian relief organisation that operates in 30 of the poorest countries of the world. He has contributed to several humanitarian and community causes, including acting as one of a group of unofficial peace envoys to Northern Ireland throughout the 1990s.

Rotha Johnston, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Senate, the University’s governing body, said: “I am delighted that Queen’s has chosen Tom Moran to be its new Chancellor.  Tom is recognised for his steadfast commitment to helping others and for his charitable, philanthropic and educational work. He joins Queen’s at an exciting time in its development and we very much look forward to the important contribution of our new Chancellor.”

Accepting the position, Mr Moran said: “It is a great honour to accept the role of Chancellor of this fine institution. Queen’s is known around the world as an innovative, dynamic and exceptional University that helps change lives for the better. I hope, during my time as Chancellor, that I can make a positive contribution to the University’s continued success and to increase further its global impact on society.”

Mr Moran will serve as the University’s new Chancellor, for a period of five years, with effect from 1 May 2015.

Mr Moran graduated from Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics.  In 2006, Queen’s University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Science (Economics) for services to business, commerce and to public service.  He and his wife Joan currently reside in New York City.

The Chancellor fulfils three main roles – a ceremonial one which involves presiding at degree congregations; an ambassadorial role, where the office holder helps to “open doors” for the University as it seeks to fulfil its mission; and finally as an advisor, available to the Vice-Chancellor and senior management as a “sounding board” and to provide counsel and guidance.

Media inquiries to: Kevin Mulhern, Head of Communications and External Affairs at 0044 (0)28 9097 3259 / 0044 (0)7813 015431 or k.mulhern@qub.ac.uk




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Queen’s researchers in £5million programme to improve bowel cancer survival

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have launched a revolutionary personalised treatment programme to help improve bowel cancer survival rates.

The £5 million initiative aims to fundamentally change how we treat bowel cancer patients, both in the UK and around the world, by personalising their treatments and ensuring that each patient gets access to the most effective therapies.

The S-CORT Consortium, jointly launched and funded by Medical Research Council (MRC) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK), will employ the latest state-of-the-art techniques to define the genetic make-up of bowel cancer cells, collected from over 2,000 patients from large clinical trials, and use the information to develop personalised care plans for individual cancer patients.

More than 41,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK. One of the consortium’s key aims is to allow the most effective therapies to be delivered to newly-diagnosed bowel cancer patients.

Professor Mark Lawler, Chair of Translational Cancer Genomics at Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) and Queen’s lead on the programme, said: “This Precision Medicine approach, where we match the right patient to the right treatment, has the potential to revolutionise how we treat this deadly disease.  It will also allow us to spare patients the often debilitating side effects of ineffective therapies, thus improving their quality of life.”

Professor Patrick Johnston, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s and a principal investigator of the S-CORT Consortium, said: “I am delighted that Queen’s researchers are playing such a prominent role in a UK-wide collaborative programme that has the potential to significantly improve the lives of bowel cancer patients.  This is further evidence of Queen’s University leading on world class research which will have a lasting impact around the globe.”

Head of the S-CORT Consortium, Professor Tim Maughan, based at the University of Oxford, said: “Bowel cancer survival has more than doubled in the last 40 years. But there is still a lot more work to do.  Recognising this challenge, we have brought together key partners to develop new ways to tailor treatment to the patients who will benefit the most, and make a significant difference to their chances of beating this common disease.”

Margaret Grayson, Chair of the Northern Ireland Cancer Research Consumer Forum, said:  “We are very excited to be an active part of this research programme that has a clear line of sight to us, the cancer patients.” 

Craigavon based biotech company, Almac Diagnostics are a key partner in the initiative. Professor Richard Kennedy, McClay Professor of Experimental Medicine (CCRCB) at Queen’s and Vice-President and Medical Director of Almac Diagnostics, said: “We see the potential for industry and  academia to work together in partnership to develop new tests that will predict which patients will respond to different therapies.  This research has the potential not only to improve patient outcomes in Northern Ireland and across the UK, it also can contribute to the local economy.”

The announcement is made during Bowel Cancer Awareness month and represents a significant commitment from MRC and CRUK in developing a more personalised medicine strategy in this common cancer.

Interview bids to Queen’s Communications Office on comms.office@qub.ac.uk or Tel. 028 9097 3087.

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Queen’s scientists develop first perfume which smells better the more you sweat

The first-ever perfume delivery system to ensure the more a person sweats, the better they will smell, has been developed by scientists at Queen’s University Belfast.

Researchers in the Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre have developed a unique new perfume delivery system which releases more of its aroma when it comes into contact with moisture, meaning a person smells nicer when their sweat levels increase.

This innovative perfume system has been created by tagging a raw fragrance onto an ionic liquid (salt in the form of liquid) which has no smell. The ‘perfumed ionic liquid’ releases its aroma when it comes into contact with water, allowing more of the perfume’s scent to be released onto a person’s skin.

In addition, the perfume system also has the ability to remove the bad odours that come from sweat.  The ‘thiol’ compounds that are responsible for the malodour of sweat are attracted to the ionic liquid, attaching themselves to it and losing their potency.

The breakthrough could have major commercial possibilities, potentially providing a new way to develop products for the huge personal care market. QUILL researchers are currently working with a perfume development company to identify a number of product ideas that could eventually be sold in shops.

Project leader, Dr Nimal Gunaratne, from the Queen's University Belfast Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre, said: “This is an exciting breakthrough that uses newly discovered ionic liquid systems to release material in a controlled manner. Not only does it have great commercial potential, and could be used in perfumes and cosmetic creams, but it could also be used in others area of science, such as the slow release of certain substances of interest.”   

“This innovative development demonstrates the drive of researchers at Queen’s to advancing knowledge and achieving excellence for the benefit of society as a whole.”

The research was carried out by corresponding author Dr Nimal Gunaratne, Professor Ken Seddon and Dr Peter Nockemann, from the Queen's University QUILL Research Centre. 

Read the full research article at:  http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2015/cc/c5cc00099h#!divAbstract

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5384.

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Queen's students win prestigious IT scholarships

Five leading IT and engineering students from Queen’s University Belfast have been awarded prestigious scholarships worth up to £25,000. 

Queen’s students Alan Ferguson, Ciarán Mulholland, David Ball, Michael Purdy and Michael Seeds, have joined the renowned Asidua Scholarship programme which aims to attract fresh talent into the Northern Ireland IT sector.

Set up by Belfast IT software and telecoms services provider, Asidua, the programme gives students the opportunity to work alongside the company’s professional staff during paid summer and year out placements. Since its launch, 34 leading IT and Engineering students have been placed on the programme; each securing a package of support worth up to £25,000.

Ann Doris, Senior Careers & Placement Advisor at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “We are delighted that Asidua continues to recruit and financially support top IT and Engineering talent from Queen's University into the IT sector through their Scholarship Programme. It enables our students to gain industry relevant experience and grow into young professionals from the start of their academic career.”

One of the successful students, Alan Ferguson, who is currently studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Queen's University Belfast, said: “I want to learn and expand my skills through my time spent on my summer and industrial placements. In particular I hope to learn more about software development from working on real projects as well as getting to learn from talented professionals in a real world environment. In the future I hope the Asidua Scholarship Programme helps me improve my skill set along with honing my existing skills.”

The five Queen’s students will continue with their first year studies at the university, returning this summer to begin their first industrial placement with Asidua, which is run by the Civica Group company.

Please direct media enquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office on 028 9097 5384 or andrew.kennedy@qub.ac.uk

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