Thanks to everyone who donated to the Oesophageal cancer research coffee morning on Wednesday 27th April held in the Centre for Public Health. Lots of people and businesses donated baked goods and prizes for the raffle. A very special thanks to those members of the Cancer Epidemiology Research group and the Oesophageal cancer research team working at CCRCB (pictured) who contributed and helped out on the morning.
The total amount raised was a whopping £1,100! These funds will go towards oesophageal cancer research at two charities – Cancer Research UK and OCHRE - both of which are doing great work in raising awareness and funding research aimed at tackling this devastating disease.
Leading researchers at CCRCB, Queen’s University Belfast have discovered a potential new way to separate patients with the very earliest forms of breast cancer into risk groups and better tailor treatment to their needs.
Dr Niamh Buckley – a Breast Cancer Now Scientific Fellow – and her team set out to find a way to predict the likelihood that a woman diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer (DCIS) had also developed an initially undetected invasive form of the disease, or that they would go on to develop invasive cancer in the future – information that could enable doctors to personalise their treatment accordingly.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which is the most common form of non-invasive breast cancer, occurs when cancer cells have developed within the milk ducts but not yet broken out and spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
About 5,000 cases of DCIS are diagnosed every year in the UK, with 130 in Northern Ireland alone. It has been estimated that about half of DCIS tumours will progress into invasive breast cancer, but it is difficult to predict which cases are likely to do this.
Women with DCIS sometimes also develop early invasive cancers that are so small that they go undetected through the traditional diagnostic investigations (biopsy, ultrasound and mammogram). Dr Buckley’s research has found that a range of biomarkers in their DCIS tumour could give patients (and their doctors) the option of knowing they were more likely to develop invasive disease – if they hadn’t done so already – and therefore of being offered more intensive treatment.
By the same token, while women at high risk of having co-existing invasive breast cancer could then receive more intensive treatment, those at lower risk could also elect to have more conservative treatment.
The biomarkers which showed the most promise for predicting which DCIS cases were linked to invasive disease were ‘Ki67’ and ‘p53’, with high levels in cancer cells indicating that these cells are multiplying rapidly.
The team also identified potential treatments which could be used to target the biomarkers they found to be significantly associated with invasive disease.
Of particular interest was that the levels of markers called HER2 and TOP2A were similar in both DCIS and co-existing invasive cases. Breast cancers that produce large amounts of HER2 can be treated with the drug Herceptin, and chemotherapy drugs called anthracyclines could be particularly effective against tumours that produce TOP2A. This means that if DCIS cases are found to produce either HER2 or TOP2A, Herceptin or anthracycline drugs could be used to treat not only the DCIS tumour, but also any co-existing invasive breast cancer.
The study, which has been published in Oncotarget, was funded by Cancer Research UK and was carried out at the Northern Ireland Molecular Pathology Laboratory at Queen’s University Belfast under the guidance of Dr Buckley and Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez. Dr Buckley’s research is supported by a Breast Cancer Now Scientific Fellowship, made possible by ASDA’s Tickled Pink.
Dr Niamh Buckley, Breast Cancer Now Scientific Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, said:
“Increased knowledge of the molecular profile of non-invasive cancers can only serve to enhance our understanding of the disease and, in an era of personalised medicine, can only bring us closer to improving breast cancer care.
“Our findings require further validation through clinical trials but we believe that the use of biomarkers could pave the way to a significant improvement in the management of non-invasive breast cancer.”
Dr Richard Berks, Senior Research Communications Officer at Breast Cancer Now, said:
“Whilst the screening programme has allowed for non-invasive cancers to be detected early and treated accordingly, we don’t yet know which cases are likely to progress into invasive breast cancer or already have co-existing but undetected invasive disease. Research like Dr Buckley’s is vital to developing our knowledge in this area.
“It’s these type of studies that will feed in to the future development of a whole new generation of post-diagnosis testing that could tell a clinician exactly how to treat an individual patient to achieve the best possible outcome for them.”
Launched in June 2015 with the ambition of stopping women dying from the disease by 2050, Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s largest breast cancer charity, created by the merger of Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
To mark World Cancer Day on 4 February, scientists at Queen’s launched a Europe-wide initiative, ‘Vision 70:35’, to increase cancer survival to 70 per cent by 2035.
Led by Professor Mark Lawler, from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast and Vice President European Cancer Concord (ECC), the initiative is in collaboration with the European Cancer Patient Coalition and other European partners.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Professor Lawler said: "Vision 70:35 emphasises the scale of our ambition to improve cancer survival rates by an additional 20% over the next 20 years. We believe that this target is achievable, provided we share best practice and promote innovation and research across European nations and regions. It is further evidence of Queen’s University’s commitment to advancing knowledge and changing lives. We are actively addressing issues such as early diagnosis, equal access and the role of precision cancer medicine to achieve our 70:35 target.”
Margaret Grayson, Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Cancer Research Consumer Forum said: "Vision 70:35 is a patient focused initiative. It provides hope for our cancer patients and their loved ones, and emphasises how research can play a big part in improving cancer outcomes."
Professor Peter Selby, University of Leeds and President ECC, said: “Our Vision 70:35 can deliver, but only if we work together. ECC is partnering with many pan European Organisations including the European Cancer Organisation (ECCO), the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL), the European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), The European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) and the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) in order to achieve this ambitious target.”
Professor Patrick Johnston, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, said: “This 70:35 Vision represents a significant opportunity to drive a European-wide initiative that champions the role of innovation and research in providing the best level of cancer care. I am delighted that Queen’s is continuing to provide leadership in an ambitious strategy that has the potential to deliver real benefits for all European citizens.”
Vision 70:35 is the key implementation phase of the European Cancer Patient's Bill of Rights, a Queen’s University-led initiative which was launched in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 2014.
In order to emphasise how working together can help improve cancer outcomes, a series of handshakes were performed between partner organisations on World Cancer Day, starting in London, passing through Brussels and a number of other European capital cities and culminating in a symbolic joining of hands by MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Professor Lawler symbolically shook hands in Brussels with Professor Dominique de Valeriola, Director of the Institute Jules Bordet, Brussels, Belgium and President, Organisation of European Cancer Institutes.
The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen's University will be involved in a new UK centre of excellence to understand and treat patients’ illnesses more precisely.
The Precision Medicine Catapult today announced that Belfast will be one of six initial locations for its regional centres of excellence network, alongside Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford.
Each centre will act as a hub for research and development in precision medicine, which uses diagnostic tests and data-based insights to understand a patient’s illness more precisely and select treatments with more predictable, safer and cost-effective outcomes.
Speaking about the announcement, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said: “Queen’s is pleased to be involved in the UK’s new national innovation centre for precision medicine. The decision to establish a regional centre of excellence in Belfast is testament to Northern Ireland’s excellence in terms of research and clinical expertise in precision medicine. Queen’s is already conducting life-changing and life-saving research in this area. We look forward to continuing that important work alongside our partners in the Precision Medicine Catapult to make the UK the most attractive place in the world in which to develop precision medicine tests and therapies.”
Catapults are a UK Government initiative, established and part-funded by Innovate UK, where the best of the UK’s innovative businesses and researchers work together to bring new products and services to commercialisation. The Precision Medicine Catapult was established in April 2015 to harness the breadth of UK expertise, developing innovative technologies and solutions for broader use across the UK’s healthcare sector.
A physical presence will be established at each centre, with local recruitment to build expert teams. The centres will work collaboratively with local, national and global stakeholders including government, academia, health systems and SMEs, with broad industry engagement to identify and resolve barriers to building a leading UK precision medicine industry.
John McKinley, CEO of the Precision Medicine Catapult, said: “We're delighted to announce the location of these centres of excellence, each with access to a unique blend of regional expertise. Project development work has been ongoing across the UK and we will be launching offices and related programmes over the coming months. As well as growing the UK's strong position in precision medicine, we believe our network will deliver health and economic impact at a local and national level.”
Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: “Precision medicine allows clinicians to select treatments for patients which are more targeted, more predictable in terms of response and ultimately safer and more cost-effective. Northern Ireland already has world leading companies and expertise operating in this growing field.
“The location of a Precision Medicine Catapult centre of excellence in Northern Ireland recognises the expertise and innovation that exists within our health and care service and can help ensure that the care we provide to our patients becomes ever more effective.”
Jennifer Welsh, Director of Surgery and Specialist Services in Belfast Trust said: “This announcement is recognition that Belfast is in a leading position in terms of developing precision medicine tests and therapies. This is building on years of collaboration between Belfast Trust and key partners such as the Pathology Network and Queen’s University. It is an exciting time which will bring significant long-term benefits to our patients.”
For more information visit www.catapult.org.uk
Professor Kevin Prise
A leading cancer expert from Queen’s University who is pioneering improved approaches for treating cancer with radiotherapy is set to become the next Vice-President of an international research society.
Professor Kevin Prise, Deputy Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s, has been chosen as Vice-President-Elect of the US Radiation Research Society. He was elected via a ballot of all Society Members.
Professor of Radiation Biology, Kevin leads the Radiation Biology Group at CCRCB which is working on improved approaches for treating cancer with radiotherapy. Professor Prise, in collaboration with Professor Joe O’Sullivan, Clinical Director, and Professor Alan Hounsell, Clinical Physics Research Lead, plays a major role in the Prostate Cancer UK Movember Centre of Excellence at CCRCB which is researching new approaches for treating men who are likely to fail current treatments for prostate cancer.
Speaking about his appointment, Professor Prise said: “This is a rare privilege and exciting challenge, especially for a non-US member of the Society.
This role is a great opportunity to profile internationally the work we are doing at Queen’s and the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology to improve outcomes for cancer patients.”
Professor Prise, living in Lisburn but originally from Aberdeen, will take up the position of Vice-President in September 2016 and will serve as President from September 2017.
The CRUK Accelerator launch meeting
Cancer experts from Queen’s University Belfast have received a major award exceeding £3.6M from Cancer Research UK aimed at developing a national digital pathology programme to assist and accelerate the delivery of Precision Medicine in the UK.
The CRUK Accelerator Award brings together a consortium of cancer pathologists, biologists and immunologists from the Belfast Cancer Research UK Centre, who will work in partnership with researchers from the Universities of Southampton, Manchester and Newcastle, University College London and the Institute of Cancer Research.
Already recognised as experts in identifying faulty genes and molecules in tumours, the Belfast team will now lead this nationwide research programme dedicated to expanding the application and use of digital pathology to quantify specific tumour markers. The programme will be supported using software from PathXL, a Queen’s University spin-out company which specialises in high resolution imaging of tumours and cloud-based digital pathology.
Queen’s Professor David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Centre and Cell Biology, said: “The selection of this research programme submitted by the Belfast CRUK Centre is further proof that Queen’s cancer researchers are at the cutting edge of the latest innovations to improve outcomes for cancer patients across the world. Through this new research programme we will develop knowledge that can inform the targeted use of immunotherapeutic agents in cancer patients.”
“We are thrilled to receive this award and I congratulate my colleagues Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez and Professor Peter Hamilton, in leading this successful bid. It is further recognition of the powerful alliance that our Centre is forging with local and international industry to deliver new advances in cancer care.”
Queen’s University Belfast will also lead the education and training programme in pathology that underpins the national network.
Professors Salto-Tellez and Peter Hamilton, Professors of Molecular and Digital Pathology respectively at Queen’s University, added: “Traditionally, researchers have used standard slides to examine tissue cells under the microscope. However, in recent years our research at Queen’s has pioneered the way to exploit digital technology to revolutionize the way we look at tumours, enabling us to obtain a deeper understanding of the cancer and provide a more detailed diagnosis to clinicians, as well as better tools for our scientists."
Professor Hamilton said: “This award demonstrates how Belfast has been leading in digital biotechnology for cancer research and diagnostics. This CRUK funding will allow Belfast and the wider UK team to accelerate cancer discovery using these novel technologies, promote their application in clinical practice and maintain Belfast CRUK Centre’s reputation as a world leader in digital molecular pathology."
Des Speed, CEO of PathXL, said: “We are delighted that this innovative research project is progressing to implementation, and are looking forward to working with all centres in the consortium.
“It is very exciting to be at the forefront of this UK-wide strategy for digital and molecular pathology in cancer, which has the potential to drive dramatic change. This award is further recognition that Northern Ireland is leading the way in developing digital pathology, and of the strength of the PathXL software platform.”
Researchers from each of the collaborating UK academic institutes met at Queen’s University on 19 and 20 August to launch this new initiative.
The winner of the annual First Trust Bank Queen’s Student of the Year Award is Dental student Laura Graham from Portglenone, Co Antrim. Laura was chosen for her international academic success and for her role in student music.
The Award, which is presented by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) with generous backing from First Trust Bank, is one of the highlights of Graduation Week. Now in its 17th year, it recognises exceptional students for excellence, achievement or service either to the University or to the wider community.
Speaking ahead of the presentation Mark McKeown, Manager of First Trust Bank University Road, said: “We have been supporting these important Awards since their inception and are very proud to be associated with such a stand-out event in the University calendar.
“Our endorsement recognises and celebrates the achievements of all those Queen's students who make such an invaluable contribution to life in Northern Ireland and beyond. This year’s Student of the Year – Laura Graham – is an inspirational role model for all students but especially those considering undertaking postgraduate research.”
While taking a year out from her Dentistry studies to complete an intercalated Master’s Degree of Research at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB), Laura focused on the role of p63 and BRCA1 in Oropharyngeal Cancer – genes which are linked to early-onset of breast and ovarian cancer. She was then selected to represent the Irish division at the International Association of Dental Research annual conference in Boston, Massachusetts in May where she won the Junior Researcher Hatton Award, the most prestigious student research prize in world dentistry.
In addition to a lead role in the St Vincent de Paul society at Queen’s, Laura was also actively involved in the student orchestra (where she played violin) and was a soprano in the Chamber Choir. Last year she received a Degree Plus award for time spent with the Choir.
Feargus McCauley, President of the QGA who delivered the Student of the Year citation, believes that the First Trust Awards are an acknowledgement of all that is best about Queen’s. He said: “With the recent opening of the Graduate School at Queen’s, the University is poised to be a powerhouse of postgraduate research.
“This year’s Student of the Year Award recognises the achievement and impact of a gifted researcher, an exemplary master’s student, and a person of great tenacity and commitment. Laura Graham richly deserves recognition this year.”
The Student of the Year receives a trophy and £500.
Professor Mark Lawler
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.
Queen’s University Belfast is leading a major new international initiative into modern cancer care medicine which was announced in Washington D.C.
Researchers from Queen’s University’s world-class Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) in partnership with researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Washington are working together to deliver a £2.5M 4 year PhD programme in Precision Cancer Medicine.
Precision Cancer Medicine utilises our increased biological understanding of cancer to drive a more selective approach, ensuring patients receive therapeutically effective treatment based on their genetic make-up, while avoiding treatment-related side effects. CCRCB has established an innovative Academia-Industry-Healthcare Precision Cancer Medicine pipeline that is delivering new diagnostics and new therapies for cancer patients.
The innovative Doctoral Training Programme in Precision Cancer Medicine will initially provide 12 Queen’s students with an unrivalled opportunity to perform cutting edge research at a world renowned cancer institution, positioning them as future leaders in an area that is revolutionising how we deliver 21st century medicine to cancer patients.
Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Patrick Johnston said: "It is extremely exciting to be announcing this initiative here in Washington. It provides significant opportunities for students to be exposed to state-of-the-art technologies and receive quality mentorship from researchers both at the NCI and at Queen’s and it is further evidence of how Queen’s researchers are continuing to advance knowledge and change lives at a global level."
Dr Stephen Chanock, Chief, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI said: "We welcome this opportunity for Northern Ireland students to come to the National Institutes of Health. They will join with fellow graduate students from many parts of the world in an academic milieu that will encourage research excellence."
In this Doctoral Training Programme, PhD students will not only acquire specialist research skills, but will also be exposed to entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership training, as part of a collaboration between the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, the Queen’s University Management School and the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s.
"This cross faculty, interdisciplinary PhD Programme is an excellent example of the type of modern postgraduate degree that we are now offering to students attending Queen’s." said Professor Margaret Topping, Dean of Queen’s Graduate School.
Professor David Waugh, Director, CCRCB said: "Doctoral training is a key component of our Precision Cancer Medicine Programme. Partnering with researchers at the NCI not only enhances the student experience, but also provides significant opportunities for future research collaborations with CCRCB scientists."
Professor Mark Lawler, Associate Director of Postgraduate Studies at CCRCB and chief architect of the programme said: "This vibrant Doctoral Training Programme actively encourages excellence with impact, delivering a cadre of innovative, business-aware and socially responsible scientists who will compete successfully in the evolving global research and bio-industry communities. It provides Northern Ireland students with a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to further their careers at a world famous cancer institution and deliver research with global impact."
For Further Information Please contact Professor Mark Lawler Associate Director of Postgraduate Studies, CCRCB and Director of the Doctoral Training programme in Precision Cancer Medicine.
Find out how we are curing cancer in Belfast at our free Open Day. This is a unique opportunity for you to meet the researchers, go behind the scenes in our labs, and find out more about cancer research.
Come along and experience our local cancer research brought to life by the researchers themselves. See how researchers in Belfast are working together to discover and pioneer new cancer treatments.
There will be interactive activities suitable for all ages including children (* Please note due to health and safety regulations, young adults and children will need to be supervised by a responsible adult at all times in the Centre.)
Date – Saturday 9 May 2015
Time: 11am – 3pm
Venue – Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast
Please visit the CCRCB Open Day page for more information and registration details.