09/05/15: CCRCB Open Day - Saturday 9 May 2015
07/02/15: CCRCB Researchers in BBC Documentary
01/04/13: Fighting Cancer With Computers
01/02/13: Chief Executive of Movember Visits CCRCB
12/12/12: Winter Graduation 2012
20/09/12: Clarke Makes ‘Major’ Gift to Queen’s
02/07/12: CCRCB Summer Research Programme 2012
07/06/12: Cancer Research UK Centre Lecture 2012
07/03/12: MPN & MPNr-EuroNet Meeting
13/02/12: Queen's Recognised for HR Excellence
01/02/12: Summer Research Programme 2012
20/12/11: CR-UK Engagement Activities in 2011
03/12/11: Mitchell Lecture 2011
28/10/11: Roche Prize 2011
27/10/11: EORTC - NCI - ASCO Annual Meeting 2011
29/09/11: £25K Entrepreneurship Award
19/09/11: A Vital Breakthrough in Cancer Research
08/09/11: CCRCB-STO Conference
07/09/11: Joint STO-CCRCB Meeting
04/07/11: CCRCB Summer Research Programme 2011
23/06/11: Cancer Research UK Centre Lecture 2011
10/06/11: Information Day for Teachers
12/05/11: CR-UK Centre Update
09/04/11: CCRCB Schools Workshop
08/03/11: NILRF Launch Belfast Marathon Appeal
02/03/11: IACR Satellite Meeting
25/02/11: Mitchell Scholars Visit CCRCB
14/02/11: Race for Life
01/02/11: CCRCB Summer Research Programme 2011
27/01/11: RMS Vice-President's Fund 2011
18/11/10: Mitchell Lecture 2010
12/11/10: Roche Prize 2010
20/10/10: CCN Workshop
01/09/10: New CCRCB Deputy Director Appointed
24/08/10: Dr Jack Kyle’s Visit to CCRCB
01/07/10: CCRCB Summer Research Programme 2010
17/06/10: MLAs Visit to CCRCB
10/05/10: Researchers ‘Thank You’ Film
08/01/10: CCRCB Summer Research Programme 2010
12/11/09: Mitchell Lecture 2009
01/10/09: Professor Karen Vousden visits CCRCB
27/08/09: A Family Affair in Belfast
14/08/09: Birthday Honours
24/03/09: Cancer Research UK Centre Launched
27/11/08: Mitchell Lecture
28/06/08: TV Presenter Stops at CCRCB
20/06/08: CR-UK Vintage Tractor Run 20 June 08
03/04/08: Sir Reg Empey visits CCRCB
CCRCB is one of five local charities who Danske Bank is inviting its customers and members of the public to vote online for, to receive a £5,000 gift from the Bank in time for Christmas.
The five nominated charities including CCRCB were put forward by Danske Bank staff and it is now up to the public to vote. The online vote will close at 9.00am on Wednesday 16 December 2015. The charity which receives the most votes during this period will receive the donation. The successful charity will be announced on Friday 18 December 2015.
To cast your vote, please visit www.danskebank.co.uk/ChristmasGift
Pictured right: Lisa McIlvenna and Tony Wilcox of Danske Bank launch the 2015 Danske Bank Christmas Charity Gift.
Our cancer researchers have featured in a BBC One documentary on The Truth About Cancer, presented by Stephen Nolan. The researchers spoke about their work and the advances in modern science which are giving cancer patients a higher rate of survival.
If you missed it, you can watch the documentary here.
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.
Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Patrick Johnston, has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RSCI).
Founded in 1784, the RSCI is a world renowned medical institution, providing extensive education and training in the healthcare professions for students in Ireland.
The award, the highest distinction the RSCI bestows, was presented to Professor Johnston in recognition of his contribution to cancer research. A globally-recognised cancer specialist over the last 20 years, Professor Johnston, from Derry, has also led the development of a world-leading Institute of Health Sciences at Queen’s University.
His research has resulted in a number of prestigious landmark publications, over 20 patents and almost £100 million in grants being secured from research and philanthropic bodies.
Professor Johnston was presented with the award by RCSI President, Declan J Magee, at a conferring ceremony at RCSI in Dublin, on February 7, 2015.
Commenting on the distinguished accolade, Professor Johnston said: “I am delighted to have received an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. It is a privilege to have received this honour and to have had my contribution to cancer research recognised in this way.”
Bowel Cancer Breakthrough May Benefit Thousands of Patients
Researchers at Queen’s University have made a significant breakthrough that may benefit patients with bowel cancer.
Dr Sandra van Schaeybroeck and her team have discovered how two genes cause bowel cancer cells to become resistant to treatments used against the disease. The research, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, was published this month in the prestigious international journal Cell Reports.
The activity of the two genes, called MEK and MET, was uncovered when the researchers looked at all the different pathways and interactions taking place in bowel cancer cells.
Dr van Schaeybroeck and her group found that these bowel cancers switch on a survival mechanism when they are treated with drugs that target faulty MEK genes. But when the researchers added drugs that also block the MET gene, the bowel cancer cells died. The team are now testing a new approach to target these two genes in the most aggressive forms of bowel cancer in a European Commission funded clinical trial that is being led by Dr van Schaeybroeck.
Currently over 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year and over 16,000 patients die of the disease. More than half of patients develop the aggressive form of the disease which does not respond to standard therapy, the five year overall survival in this patient group is less than five per cent.
Study author Dr Sandra van Schaeybroeck, from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s University, said: “We have discovered how two key genes contribute to aggressive bowel cancer. Understanding how they are involved in development of the disease has also primed the development of a potential new treatment approach for this disease.”
Queen’s University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, said: “Understanding the genes that cause bowel cancer is a key focus of our research. Our discoveries in this deadly disease have identified a new route to clinical application for cancer patients.”
Professor David Waugh, Director of the CCRCB at Queen’s, said: “The publication of this research by Dr van Schaeybroeck and her team demonstrates our commitment to performing excellent science here in Belfast that can be directly translated to the clinic.”
The clinical trial, which is called MErCuRIC and is due to start in September, will deliver personalised medicine to Northern Irish patients and patients from other European countries. Overall, the pan European collaborative effort will involving 13 research/clinical teams from nine European countries.
Scientists at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology have been awarded a £126,000 grant by blood cancer charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research for research to improve treatments for blood cancer patients.
The two year research project will be led by Professor Ken Mills, Dr Kienan Savage, Professor Mary Frances McMullin and Dr Fabio Liberante. They will develop new treatments that are more effective at seeking out and destroying abnormal white blood cells.
The research will focus on a genetic fault found in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). MDS is a group of blood disorders where the balance of healthy blood cells in the body is disrupted by the growth of ‘master’ cells. Patients with these types of disease are usually elderly and are often unable to cope with intensive treatment like chemotherapy.
Professor Mills said: “Several genetic abnormalities have been connected with MDS but we don’t know their role in the onset or progression of the disease. In particular a gene called SF3B1 is known to be mutated in the blood cells of around a third of patients with MDS. As many as 85% of patients with a type of MDS called refractory anaemia with ring sideroblasts (RARS) have the error. The ultimate aim of our research is to improve treatment for patients with MDS, particularly RARS, by identifying a specific drug that can target this SF3B1 mutation.”
The researchers will study this particular genetic fault and use cutting-edge genetic techniques to identify exactly how the mutated SF3B1 gene influences the development of MDS. They will look at how the abnormal SF3B1 affects the ability of the cell to repair damaged DNA, how this impairment influences disease progression, and whether it’s possible to block it with drugs.
Dr Matt Kaiser, Head of Research at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “The majority of patients diagnosed with MDS are over the age of 60 and most are unable to cope with the current treatments available. This research shed light on how a genetic error in SF3B1 affects blood cell development and behaviour. Improving treatments and tailoring them to target specific rogue cells will enable a safer and more effective way of combating the disease for patients.”
Dr Kienan Savage
Cancer researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have made a breakthrough which could signal new treatments for women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Currently around one in 1,000 women in the UK carry what is known as a BRCA1 mutation - the same condition that prompted well-known actress Angelina Jolie to undergo a double mastectomy. They have up to an 85 per cent risk of developing breast cancer, and up to 40 per cent risk of developing ovarian cancer, in their lifetimes.
Until now, preventive surgery - mastectomy (breasts) and oophorectomy (ovaries) - has been the only way of reducing the risk of developing both types of cancers.
The new discovery by researchers in Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) may mean women affected with BRCA1 could use drugs, which are already available, to reduce their risk of developing the disease, rather than undergo irreversible surgery. In turn, such treatments would open up the possibility of some of these women, who might otherwise have an oophorectomy, still being able to have children.
The new research by Dr Kienan Savage and Professor Paul Harkin at CCRCB proves there is a direct link between high levels of oestrogen and DNA damage, which causes cancer, in the breasts and ovaries. Specifically, the scientists discovered that the cells of women with the BRCA1 mutation cannot effectively fight the very high levels of oestrogen that exist in all women’s breasts and ovaries, leaving them vulnerable to DNA damage. While this link between oestrogen, breast/ovarian cancer and BRCA1 mutation has been suspected by the scientific community for years, it has not been proven until now.
Dr Kienan Savage, from the CCRCB, and who led the research, said: “This discovery is very significant in the management of women with the BRCA1 gene mutation. It’s the first really credible evidence that oestrogen is driving cancer in women with a BRCA1 gene mutation. Because of this discovery, we now have the opportunity to propose an alternative treatment to surgery. It also opens up the possibility of pausing treatment for a period in order for women to have children, if desired.
“What also makes this exciting is that there are drugs already on the market which turn off oestrogen production. In theory, we could use these drugs to chemically reduce oestrogen production in women which could negate the need for irreversible surgery.”
The Queen’s-led research, which has been ongoing for four years, was carried out with funding from Cancer Focus NI and Cancer Research UK. It is carried in the latest edition of the prestigious USA-based journal Cancer Research.
Professor David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s, said: “This breakthrough by researchers at CCRCB is great news for women with the BRCA1 gene and the cancer research community as a whole. It is pivotal in that it reveals more about the mechanisms behind breast and ovarian cancer.
“This work of Dr Kienan Savage and Professor Paul Harkin is further example of the world-leading research being undertaken at Queen’s which continues to advance knowledge and change lives.”
Roisin Foster, Chief Executive, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, said: “Cancer Focus is delighted to fund this ground-breaking research into breast cancer, which has the potential in the forseeable future to benefit women all over the world. We are only able to support this vital work because of the generosity of our local community.”
The researchers are currently seeking funding to launch clinical trials and hope to do so within 12 months. It is envisaged that, in the first instance, a small control trial will be carried out using a combination of two drugs on 12 women for a period of three months, using biopsy, blood and urine samples to track DNA damage.
For further information, contact the Communications Office on Tel. +44 (0)28 9097 3087 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured L to R: Patient Allister Murphy with Professer David Waugh and Professor Joe O'Sullivan
Queen’s University Belfast has announced it is to partner with the University of Manchester to form the first regional Movember Centre of Excellence in the fight against prostate cancer.
The radical development is in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK and the Movember Foundation and will see an investment of £5 million over a five-year period across Belfast and Manchester.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among males in the UK with 40,000 new diagnoses every year. Comprising an outstanding team of internationally recognised scientists from across different disciplines, the key focus of the Belfast-Manchester hub will be improving outcomes for men with advanced disease. The funding will ensure that lab breakthroughs are translated into clinical benefits as quickly as possible. The Belfast-Manchester nexus will also include the Manchester-based Christie NHS Foundation Trust, the largest single-site cancer centre in Europe. A second Centre of Excellence will be located in London and will also receive £5 million over five years.
The two Centres were selected after a rigorous, international peer-review process. To qualify for funding, lead scientists had to prove strong, international track records and their teams needed to demonstrate existing or planned cross-discipline collaborations between basic and clinical scientists.
Over the five-year programme, researchers in Belfast and Manchester will identify men at high risk of aggressive disease, and find which patients respond best to various treatment options – an approach often referred to as ‘personalised medicine’. Cancer specialists will also work on refining new and existing treatments such as radiotherapy to improve how well they work for advanced prostate cancer, including cancer that has spread to the bones. The Belfast-Manchester Centre will bring in expertise from outside of prostate cancer, using insights from the latest research into other cancers including melanoma, breast and lung.
Professor David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s, is one of two Scientific Co-Directors of the Centre, alongside Professor Richard Marais, Director of the CRUK Manchester Institute.
Prof Waugh said: “The Belfast-Manchester Centre of Excellence provides a rare opportunity to bring together an international team of experts in radiation, biomarker discovery, genetic modelling and tumour biology who will use their individual talents in a collective and focused manner to make significant discoveries to benefit and extend the lives of men with prostate cancer.
“The scale and duration of funding available through the programme enables clinicians and scientists to tackle major clinical problems and more importantly, the longer timeframe also enables the team to ensure that our scientific progress has a clear clinical line-of-sight, and that we can begin to apply this new knowledge into clinical practice – resulting in more immediate benefits for those affected.
“I am extremely excited about what we can achieve.”
Professor Joe O’Sullivan, chair of radiotherapy development and clinical lead for radiotherapy at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre and Chair of the Uro-Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at the Belfast Trust will be one of two Clinical Co-Directors of the Centre.
Prof O’Sullivan said: “I am extremely excited about the prospect of working with a team of world class researchers and those who are bringing their expertise from outside prostate cancer research in to the field for the first time.
“Through this research programme we have the opportunity to increase the speed of clinical advances by taking a fresh approach to prostate cancer research involving state of the art technology and a genuine collaborative approach.”
Movember UK Country Manager Sarah Coghlan said the Centres of Excellence scheme was “one of the most significant and exciting milestones for the Movember Foundation and prostate cancer research in the UK”.
She continued: “We’re bringing the best in the research world together for a sustained period to have a real impact and to develop real understanding of how to fight this disease.
“These Movember Centres of Excellence are the first of their kind in the UK focussed on prostate cancer and they represent the Movember Foundation’s commitment to having an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health. We salute every one of the Mo Bros and Mo Sistas in the UK. This wouldn’t be possible without them.”
In addition to the funding from Movember, the HSC R&D Division of the Public Health Agency has contributed an additional £500,000 to the Centre. It will be used to fund two key posts within the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre – a research radiographer and a post-doctoral research scientist.
Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director of the HSC R&D Division at the Public Health Agency said: “I am delighted that we will partner with Movember/Prostate Cancer UK to support the Belfast arm of this new Centre of Excellence in translational prostate cancer research.
“I believe this project has the potential to bring significant benefits to those living with prostate cancer in Northern Ireland and beyond. The Movember award recognises the strong track record in prostate cancer research in Belfast and Manchester, and this investment from HSC R&D Division will further enhance the already close working relationship between the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre in Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast.” Professor Richard Marais of the CRUK Manchester Institute, part of the University of Manchester, said: “We have established a unique collaboration that will bring together knowledge and insights from across different cancers and disciplines, which will enable us to tackle some of the complexities still surrounding this disease from a new perspective.
“Crucially, by working in partnership we also hope to increase the speed at which lab breakthroughs reach the man in the clinic and have a direct impact on patient outcomes.”
For media inquiries please contact the Queen’s Communications Office on email@example.com or Tel. 028 9097 3091.
Cancer Focus NI Chief Executive Roisin Foster with Prof Mark Lawler
Leading cancer charity Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is calling on the public to pledge their support for Equal Access to cancer drugs for patients in Northern Ireland in a new campaign.
Cancer Focus NI launched the three month campaign with the support of 14 local charities. The charity aims to net 10,000 pledges of support via email, letters and postcards, which will be delivered to Health Minister Edwin Poots at Stormont this autumn.
There are currently 38 cancer drugs available to patients in England that are not readily available to patients in Northern Ireland.
Anyone who would like to pledge their support for equality of access for local patients should visit www.equalaccessni.org.
Cancer Focus NI has been a driving force in the campaign to overhaul the current system to fund life-extending cancer medicines here. Chief Executive, Roisin Foster, said: “Cancer Focus NI has been concerned for some time that local cancer patients are being denied access to life-extending drugs that are currently available in England and Scotland, and will soon be available in Wales.
“The purpose of this campaign is to ensure that the most effective drugs will be made available to local cancer patients in their time of need.
“The Health Minister has indicated that he will hold a review of the cancer drug approval process in Northern Ireland, which is a move in the right direction. However, patients do not want an open ended review - they want decisive action to improve access to drugs that could extend their lives, improve their quality of life and ease symptoms.
“There is much work to be done and politicians, patients groups, clinicians and drug companies will need to work together to get the best outcome for cancer patients. We hope a strong vote will persuade our politicians to act sooner rather than later.”
Dr Richard Wilson, a Consultant Oncologist and Clinical Director of NI Ireland Cancer Trials Centre and Network, said: “Northern Ireland has contributed significantly to the field of cancer research, clinical trials and new treatments. In fact some of the medicines available on the Cancer Drug Fund list in England were developed and trialled in Northern Ireland, but are still not available to patients living here.
“Our cancer patients are, in some cases, unable to access treatments with proven clinical benefits available to others in England and now in Scotland. We’re simply asking for the same rights of access for Northern Ireland cancer patients.”
Professor Mark Lawler, from Queen’s University Belfast, is a member of the Steering Committee European Cancer Concord (ECC). He said: "Article 2 of the European Cancer Patient's Bill of Rights, which we launched in the European Parliament in Strasbourg and which received cross-party support from our MEPs, calls for optimal and timely access to appropriate treatment and care for every patient in the EU.
“This includes rapid access to the latest innovations in diagnosis and treatment. Cancer patients in Northern Ireland are currently being denied potentially beneficial treatments available in other parts of the UK. We need to open this debate and investigate ways in which we can, in a cost effective manner, achieve the best outcomes for patients in Northern Ireland.
“Unless we act quickly, the success that we have achieved in the last 15 years in moving Northern Ireland from the bottom to the top of the UK in relation to increased survival for many cancers will have been wasted. We need to act now or else we will face significant problems in cancer outcomes that will impact heavily not only on our future health, but also on our economy and on society as a whole.”
Allister Murphy (57), from Newtownabbey, has advanced prostate cancer and has experienced first-hand the inequality of access to cancer drugs here.
“In 2008 when I was first diagnosed I was given two to three years to live. By taking part in two clinical trials I benefited from specialised cancer drugs, that otherwise would have been unavailable to me, and that have added years to my life. There are other men in Northern Ireland who are still denied access to these drugs. It is so unfair.
“I believe the lack of access to cancer drugs here is discriminatory. It wouldn’t cost a lot of money to improve the system and would make such a massive difference to thousands of people’s lives.”
Roisin Foster said: “Unfortunately there are very few people who have not been touched by cancer. The message is clear – we’re calling for the public to back our Equal Access campaign. Visit www.equalaccessni.org and send a pledge of support to your local MLAs urging them to support Equal Access in Northern Ireland.”
The Cancer Focus Northern Ireland annual ManAlive conference this year focused on the best ways to communicate with men about cancer prevention, the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and where to find support. The conference was held at the Dunsilly Hotel, Antrim, to mark Men’s Health Week, which runs from June 9-15, and to update healthcare professional and individuals with an interest in men’s health and cancer issues.
More than 100 delegates attended including the voluntary, community and private sectors as well as local councils and the five health trusts. They were welcomed by Cancer Focus NI’s Head of Cancer Prevention, Gerry McElwee, who said: “We aim to empower men to improve their health, make healthier choices and access appropriate support services."
"This year our conference focused on how men receive, understand and act on information. We examined a range of approaches and asked what works best when we communicate with men on these important health issues.”
Professor Mark Lawler, Queen’s University Belfast, spoke to delegates on the theme ‘Manning up to cancer – male empowerment to overcome cancer inequalities’. He said: “Inequality in access to cancer care is a significant problem. The European Cancer Concord, led from Belfast, launched the European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights in the European Parliament on World Cancer Day earlier this year. This Bill of Rights has all party support from our three MEPs and is a catalyst for change, allowing cancer patients to address the significant inequalities that they experience every day.
“Health is not a luxury, health is a right. In this Men’s Health month, we focus on the particular challenges that male cancer patients and their families face and investigate potential solutions that may improve outcomes for men with cancer.”
Well-known author and broadcaster Christy Kenneally talked on the subject ‘Say yes to life – living well with cancer’. He said: “Traditionally, men have been encouraged to 'take it like a man'. The inference was that a real man doesn't feel any of the normal feelings of doubt, worry, fear, and so on. This has led many men to 'park' rather than 'process' their feelings. “We know that unresolved anger, self-doubt, and negative self-talk can block a man’s pathway to wellbeing. When the block appears insurmountable, the option to give up is all the more tempting.”
Other speakers were Professor Gerard Hastings, University of Sterling, Dr Karen Doherty, Cancer Focus NI counsellor, Dr Una Lynch, Sonrisa Solutions, and Geraldine Campbell, Big Lottery Fund. Cancer Focus NI’s purpose-built ManVan - a mobile drop-in unit which visits local communities, clubs and workplaces to offer men free health checks - was also on site. For further information or to book the ManVan visit www.manalive.co or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The conference is part of the Cancer Focus NI ManAlive project based in the Southern Trust area and is funded by the Big Lottery. For more information about Cancer Focus NI go to www.cancerfocusni.org, follow the charity on Facebook and Twitter or call 028 9066 3281. If you have any concerns about cancer call the charity’s free helpline on 0800 783 3339.
Almost 12,800 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with cancer each year and a significant number of these could be prevented through greater awareness, a new report from the All Party Group on Cancer (APGC) at Stormont revealed today.
The report highlights why cancer remains a major public health issue and the leading cause of death in Northern Ireland. It calls for legislative changes and a range of measures to be implemented with support from the statutory, voluntary, public and private sectors.
The APGC is made up of 18 MLAs and aims to reduce the impact of cancer on the local community. The APGC heard evidence on a range of issues from patients, clinicians and researchers from the voluntary, statutory and public sectors. The Group’s Report makes recommendations on access to cancer drugs in Northern Ireland, the impact of welfare reform, policies to control tobacco and alcohol, inequalities in men’s health and the role of primary health care in cancer prevention.
Guest speaker at the launch of the report at Stormont was Professor Mark Lawler from Queen’s University Belfast.
The Group calls on the NI Executive to provide leadership and financial support to improve both population health and cancer services. Among the APGC’s recommendations are:
- Standardise packaging for tobacco and prohibiting smoking in private vehicles;
- Implement changes in relation to alcohol pricing, health warnings and advertising;
- Ensure training and support is available for practice nurses and GPs to deliver advice and information on cancer prevention messages in primary care settings;
- DHSSPS and the Executive to work in partnership with the voluntary, statutory, private and public sectors to develop a strategy to improve men’s health and lower cancer incidence and mortality rates;
- Take steps to ensure equity of access to cancer drugs in line with the rest of the UK;
- Ensure that cancer patients are signposted to welfare advice as a routine part of their treatment.
APGC Chairman Tom Buchanan MLA said: “Cancer is a disease which has left its mark on many families throughout Northern Ireland and is a major issue for the Health Service.
“Around 245 people each week receive the dreaded news that they have been diagnosed with cancer and on average it claims the lives of 4,000 people each year. While survival rates are increasing through intensive research and improved treatments, much more needs to be done to help and support people living with this long term illness.”
Vice Chair Cathal Ó hOisín MLA said: “Our lifestyle is an important factor in the prevention of cancer and while we cannot change our genetic makeup, we can take steps to lower the risk of cancer by following a healthy lifestyle.
“The APGC has already been instrumental in using its influence to improve services and will continue to raise awareness through public, professional and political avenues to help improve cancer services and develop policies to reduce the impact of cancer on our communities.”
Roisin Foster, Chief Executive of Cancer Focus, which holds the secretariat for the Group, said: “Cancer Focus’s mission is to decrease the burden that cancer imposes on our society, and the financial burden on our health service and on our economy, but above all the burden of ill-health and loss placed on individuals and their families.
“One of the approaches we take to our work is to raise public awareness of cancer - how we can lower the incidence of cancer and how we can best support people living with the disease. Central to this is effective public health policy and a commitment to continuous improvement in the range of treatment and services available to women, men and children with cancer in Northern Ireland.
“Tackling cancer is an All Party issue, transcending party political agendas. While there is clear evidence that links cancer to social deprivation, everyone in the community will have been affected by cancer. Over 70,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with a cancer diagnosis and one in three will have the disease at some point in their lifetime.
“We trust that our leaders will study the findings in this paper and endorse the recommendations so that fewer people are diagnosed with cancer, that those who are have ever improving outcomes, and that there are the support services to help them deal with the impact of the disease.”
The report reveals that:
- Standardised packaging and legislation prohibiting smoking in private vehicles would be major steps towards reducing the impact of tobacco;
- Alcohol consumption causes 4% of all cancers;
- It is vital that primary care settings are supported in the delivery of cancer prevention messages;
- Men are at a significantly higher risk of developing and dying from nearly all of the common cancers;
- 22 cancer drugs available to patients in the rest of the UK are only available in exceptional circumstances in NI;
- People living with cancer are subjected to numerous financial pressures with many unable to continue in employment as a result of their illness.
Research charity, Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, has announced a £1.5 million investment to support research into leukaemia, lymphoma and other related disorders. The organisation will make this investment over a three year period.
As part of the £1.5 million package, the organisation has launched a £500,000 Golden Anniversary research programme, one of the major scientific and awareness initiatives that the charity has planned for its 50th anniversary year. The investment and research programme will enable researchers and clinicians in Queen’s University Belfast and across Northern Ireland to expand their internationally recognised research.
Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI is the only charity in Northern Ireland solely dedicated to funding research into leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other related conditions. All of the funds raised by the organisation remain in Northern Ireland to promote research into the causes and cure of these conditions.
New cases of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma account for over 9% of all types of cancer. This makes this group of blood cancers the 5th most common type of cancer, with more males (55% of cases) affected than females. Around 94% of all leukaemia and 99% of all lymphoma cases occur in adults.
Figures from Northern Ireland, which are very similar to those across the United Kingdom, show that around 7 out of 10 acute myeloid leukaemia patients under 60 years will be alive after 24 months. This decreases to only 2 out 10 if the patients are aged over 60 years old. The reported incidence of one type of lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has increased nearly three-fold in the past 20 years.
The Golden Anniversary research programme will enable research into aspects of leukaemia, lymphoma and other related blood cancers to improve our understanding of these diseases, leading to better therapies and patient outcomes. One of the projects will be the ‘Victoria Montgomery/Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI studentship’ which will focus on research into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and is named after a young mother from Portadown who lost her life to an aggressive form of leukaemia in November 2012.
Mr Bill Pollock, Chair of Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, said: “Over the past 50 years, the charity has supported leukaemia research and I am very pleased that we are in a position to make this major investment to support the valuable and innovative research into blood cancers being undertaken in Northern Ireland.”
Professor Ken Mills, Chair of Experimental Haematology in Queen’s University Belfast, said: "Our scientists are highly respected experts in their field and their research aims to understand how leukaemia and other related diseases develop. From this we can discover better ways of treating all of these diseases and ultimately improve the outcome and quality of life for patients. This exciting announcement by Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI of a £1.5M commitment to research will greatly enhance the ability of our researchers in Northern Ireland to undertake globally significant research."
Professor David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s, said "The funding of this research programme by Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI demonstrates their continued confidence in the high quality research being undertaken in Belfast to identify novel therapies and improve patient outcomes. It is crucial funding such as this that allows researchers at Queen’s, along with our partners, to change and improve lives."
Cancer patients in Northern Ireland are set to benefit from a landmark investment of nearly £1 million in cancer research from the Friends of the Cancer Centre Charity.
The Charity, based at the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, has partnered with Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) to provide a £900,000 funding injection for research into clinical trials – medical research trials involving patients - over the next three years. The investment, which will be delivered through an annual grant of £300,000 over a three year period, will allow the CCRCB to increase the clinical capacity of the specialist team that plans and delivers clinical trials, through a number of critical new staff posts. This increased capacity of the clinical trials research team will allow for further research and development of world leading cancer trials, an increase in patient recruitment numbers by consultants and clinical academics within the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital and ultimately improved outcomes for cancer patients.
Colleen Shaw, chief executive of Friends of the Cancer Centre, said: “This is not a donation in our eyes; this is a financial investment in the future of local cancer research and in the future of cancer care in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has become a world leader in cancer care and the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital provides the highest level of treatment available.
“Northern Ireland, through the team at CCRCB, has been at the forefront of the drive to find the latest and best ways to treat all kinds of cancer and clinical trials have become a vital weapon in this. As a charity whose focus is on supporting those affected by cancer, we recognise the potential that lies in clinical trials and the direct benefits they can have on a patient’s life. For us, this investment is also hugely important as this is not money that will disappear into the often unseen world of cancer research, as it will directly impact people affected by cancer, here and now.”
The investment will fund a number of vital posts within the clinical trials team, including a clinical research nurse, research radiographer, senior data manager as well as dedicated pharmacy support. These posts are vital in the development and implementation of clinical trials, as they provide the essential infrastructure to offer a more comprehensive and innovative trial portfolio, as well as more readily available access to trials.
David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s University, said: “We cannot emphasis enough how important this funding is. It permits us to increase the capacity of specialist staff we need to implement these world leading and life changing clinical trials. Thanks to the support of Friends of the Cancer Centre, the next three years are set to be a very exciting time for us as we now have a dedicated resource in the Cancer Centre to conduct these trials that take forward innovative discovery from our research and strive for better outcomes for patients.
“We have been at the forefront of some of the most ambitious and ground breaking research in recent years and some of our own trials have been adopted by leading cancer centres across the UK and Europe. We can now continue to drive this transition from being a follower to an internationally recognised leader in individualised cancer treatment with research born in Belfast, led by Belfast.”
Professor Joe O’Sullivan, consultant clinical oncologist at the Cancer Centre and head of the clinical research programme in radiotherapy and prostate cancer at the CCRCB, said: “As a clinical researcher, I am very keen to have a large number of trials available to my patients and it would not be possible to achieve this without the support of Friends of the Cancer Centre.
“From the patients’ perspective, this investment is also hugely significant. I see people every day who are faced with a life changing diagnosis and whilst for many the outlook is good with treatment, others need major improvements in our currently available treatment options. This is where clinical trials come in. I have seen first-hand how a trial can impact and often improve a patient’s outlook. This is very exciting for me as a consultant, especially when the trial is home grown and developed in Belfast, but most importantly this can be life changing and indeed lifesaving for the patient.”
Friends of the Cancer Centre is one of the leading cancer charities in Northern Ireland working to support cancer patients, their families and carers through key projects in the areas of research, patient comfort and care, clinical care and equipment. In addition to the investment in clinical trials, Friends of the Cancer Centre also supports cancer research through funding a number of other projects, including the Northern Ireland Cancer trials Centre and the Northern Ireland Biobank. Over the next three years, Friends of the Cancer centre has committed over £2 million to local research alone.
For further information please contact Nuala Bannon at Friends of the Cancer Centre on 028 9069 9393 or email@example.com
Professor Richard Kennedy
Congratulations to Professor Richard Kennedy from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, who was named the winner of the Vice-Chancellor's Impact Prize at an awards ceremony on Friday 15 November 2013.
Professor Kennedy and his team have developed tests to personalise cancer treatment worldwide. His leading-edge translational research on prostate, colon and breast cancer is informing the options for patients, giving them a better chance for recovery and survival.
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland Research Fellow Dr Kienan Savage, who is conducting pioneering research work focusing on the prevention and treatment of breast cancer at CCRCB, lends his support to 'Girls’ Night In'.
As part of breast cancer awareness month, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is asking local women to host a Girls’ Night In during October to raise funds for pioneering breast cancer research at Queen’s University Belfast.
Cancer Focus, the new name for Ulster Cancer Foundation, promotes and supports internationally competitive, high quality research into the causes, treatment and prevention of cancer. Currently the charity is funding a research fellowship at Queen’s that is focusing on the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
Roisin Foster, Cancer Focus Chief Executive, said: “Research is an extremely important element of what we do. Each year we invest £300,000 - £400,000 in cancer research to help identify the causes of cancer and discover improved methods of diagnosis and treatment. Many cancers previously thought to be incurable are now being treated successfully as a result of scientific research.
“The research Cancer Focus is funding has the potential to make an enormous difference to the lives of many women, but we can’t do it without you. We’re asking women across Northern Ireland to show their support by hosting a Girls’ Night In for a few friends to raise money for our research work. You can organise a pink themed afternoon tea, a movie marathon, a pamper party – whatever you and your friends enjoy doing – and ask for a donation to Cancer Focus. It’s a great reason to have a good time with the girls.”
Leading researcher Dr Kienan Savage has been appointed as Research Fellow for Cancer Focus and leads the research team at the university. Dr Savage has recently identified a number of new cancer genes that appear to be involved in the development of breast and ovarian cancers, and some forms of leukaemia.
“These cancers often arise due to damage to genes within our DNA, known as ‘gatekeeper’ genes. The genes control how often cells divide, allowing cells to grow out of control forming a tumour,” Dr Savage said.
“The new cancer genes which have been discovered appear to play a role in repairing damage to DNA and thereby aid the repair of damaged ‘gatekeeper’ genes, helping to prevent cancer.
“My research will add significantly to our understanding of how these genes work to prevent the development of cancer. It may also lead to the development of new quick and effective tests to help decide which treatments specific cancer patients will benefit from, and may help to identify new proteins that could be targeted for future therapies.
“It’s fantastic to get this opportunity to develop my own independent research which has the potential to be hugely significant for cancer patients everywhere,” he said.
To find out more information about the Girls’ Night In or to request your fundraising pack call the Pink Party Gals at Cancer Focus on 028 9066 3682, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cancerfocusni.org.
A new £13 million partnership to accelerate cancer-focused drug discovery in Northern Ireland has been launched by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster MLA.
As part of the project, Queen’s and Almac Discovery have announced the scheduling of a phase one clinical trial for ovarian cancer, involving the first novel cancer drug fully developed in Northern Ireland.
Involving up to 60 ovarian cancer patients, the drug being trialled has been created as a result of an earlier collaboration between Almac Discovery and Professor Tracy Robson from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s.
Explaining about the trial, Professor Robson said: “This latest trial involves a new treatment for cancer known as ALM201, which rather than attacking tumours directly, prevents the growth of new blood vessels in tumours, starving them of oxygen and nutrients and thereby preventing their growth. It targets tumours by an entirely different pathway to those treatments currently approved.”
Alan Armstrong, CEO of Almac added: “Bringing new treatments to patients is a complex process. The announcement today of a new clinical trial, which is the result of a previous partnership between Almac and Queen’s School of Pharmacy, is a timely illustration of how collaboration between the University and industry is already creating novel approaches to cancer therapy which have a very real chance of helping patients.”
At today’s event, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, said: “This significant investment in research and development will enhance collaboration between academia and industry. This will ensure the investment is maximised, that research is effectively commercialised and that ultimately, enhanced treatment solutions are made available to cancer patients.
“The fact that Almac and Queen’s are engaged in such ground-breaking research here in Northern Ireland is something that we should be extremely proud of. It will reinforce our position as a leader in research and development for the health and life sciences sector.”
It was also announced today that a new CCRCB/Almac Discovery joint programme in Cancer Drug Discovery will bring researchers from Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) and scientists from Almac Discovery together to translate research discoveries into treatments for patients.
The two projects represent a total investment of £13M, with £7 million of support offered by Invest Northern Ireland, which includes part funding from the European Regional Development Fund.
As a result of the joint programme, 17 scientists from Almac Discovery have been seconded to Queen’s CCRCB in an industry led venture. The discovery team will work to identify parts of tumours which are susceptible to treatment by cancer drugs and to then develop the new drugs to target them.
The partnership will also enable new approaches to selecting those patients who will be most likely to respond to the new drugs, and to create the technologies needed to deliver the drugs directly to the tumour site in the patient.
The new discovery programme is being led by Professor Tim Harrison, Vice President of Discovery Chemistry with Almac Discovery. As part of this partnership, Professor Harrison has been appointed McClay Chair of Medicinal Chemistry at Queen’s for the next three years.
Commenting on the new partnership, he said: “While Almac Discovery and Queen’s have already been successfully collaborating for a number of years, this exciting new programme is bringing together for the first time, under one roof, some of our most talented scientists. As a result we expect to see an increase in both the breadth of drug targets we are able to identify and a subsequent increase in the development of potential therapeutics for patients.”
Professor Patrick Johnston
Leading Queen’s University scientist, Professor Patrick Johnston, has been named as recipient of the 2013 Bob Pinedo Cancer Care Prize.
The award recognizes Professor Johnston’s pioneering work in translating discovery science for the benefit of cancer patients. His determination and
leadership in establishing a Comprehensive Cancer Care and Research Programme in Northern Ireland is testament to his dedication to improving both clinical outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients.
This year's Pinedo Prize of $50,000 will be presented at the Society for Translational Oncology’s Fourth Annual meeting, to be hosted by the VU
University Medical Center Cancer Center Amsterdam (VUmc CCA) at the ING House in Amsterdam on the 1st of October, 2013. Prof. Johnston will deliver the keynote lecture at the meeting which will be published by The Oncologist, STO's official journal.
In 2012, the success of Professor Johnston’s overarching vision was recognised when he was honoured to accept a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize awarded by Her Majesty, The Queen, for The Queen’s University Belfast-led Comprehensive Cancer Centre and its achievement in reducing cancer mortality rates over the last decade. This significant improvement in cancer outcomes, underpinned by best quality care and innovative research, is a direct result of Professor Johnston’s philosophy of placing the cancer patient at the centre of the cancer care and research agenda.
Speaking about the award, Professor Johnston said: “I am delighted and humbled to have been awarded The Pinedo Prize. It is a great honour to have my work and that of my research team recognised by the international cancer research community in this way.”
Queen’s University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, said: “Queen’s is bringing some of the finest minds in clinical and
scientific research together to take medical translational research to new levels. It is developing a new £175M Institute of Health Sciences. This is
happening under the leadership of Professor Patrick Johnston who has devoted his life to improving the lives of others. The Society’s award is testimony to his foresight and commitment and is recognition of the work he is undertaking on a global scale.”
Professor Johnston’s research has focused on understanding the cellular signaling pathways in gastrointestinal tumors (with a particular emphasis on
colorectal cancer), and using this information as a foundation to identify novel prognostics and diagnostic biomarkers, and molecular targets to
rationalize and improve patient care. His many significant papers on both cytotoxic and targeted therapies have expanded knowledge of the treatment of colorectal cancer and provided new insights on mechanisms of drug resistance.
“Professor Johnston is a unique physician-scientist and leader in the cancer field”, commented Dr. Bruce Chabner, editor-in-chief of The Oncologist.
"He fulfills the traditional tripartite image of excellence in research, patient care, and teaching, but adds the extra measure of organisational skill
and personal passion in his leadership of the remarkable medical centre at Queen’s University Belfast.”
Professor Johnston currently sits on the Cancer Research UK Scientific Executive Board. His other professional roles include being a member of the
Medical Research Council (MRC) Strategy Board and Chair of the MRC Translational Research Group. He is a Founder and Director of Almac Diagnostics. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Oncology Scientific Program Committee, Chair of the International Academy for Advanced Oncology, Japan, and Board Member of Medical Schools Council UK. As a Senior Editor for The Oncologist, Co-Editor of The Oncologist European Edition, and Co-Chairman of the Society for Translational Oncology, Prof. Johnston advocates for ways to speed the discovery and translation of important new treatments in the field of cancer medicine to the practice of global oncology.
The Pinedo Cancer Care Prize honors Professor H.M. (Bob) Pinedo, founder of the VU University Medical Center (VUmc) Cancer Center Amsterdam (CCA), who weds world-class cancer research with a devotion to his patients and their families.
Northern Ireland’s next generation of researchers had an insight into some of the world-leading work being conducted at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology on Wednesday 5 June. Some 90 pupils from six schools in the Magherafelt area had a unique opportunity to meet experts in cancer research, and try out some of the latest research techniques.
Pupils learned about the biology of cancer and the role of science in working towards a cure. They learned how to extract DNA from strawberries, and model the DNA double helix with jelly babies. The ‘meet-the-pathologist’ session gave pupils an insight into how cancer is clinically diagnosed and why personalised medicine is a key development in cancer treatment.
The event formed part of a UK wide initiative which sees Universities and schools working together to promote pupils’ interest in cutting edge research and raise their ambitions. Queen’s is one of the universities involved in the Research Councils UK’s £3.5 million School-University Partnership, which will benefit pupils across Northern Ireland over the next three years. The event launched the first strand of the project, to explore the future role of the creative technologies. Researchers from Queen’s Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC), the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and the School of Pharmacy also ran informative events as part of the day.
The event marks the launch of the first strand of the project, which will see researchers work with schools in the Magherafelt and Newtownabbey areas on projects addressing a number of key societal issues, including the future role of creative technologies. A second project will consider national borders and issues including multiculturalism, globalisation, identities and nationhood. A third project addresses problems of global concern – energy, water, food, environment and sustainability, while the final project will take pupils on an interactive journey from patient symptoms to clinical diagnosis, disease biomarker discovery, drug development and back to the patient for treatment.
Professor Tom Millar, Dean of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Queen’s said: “It is very important, for all our futures, that young people not only understand the benefits that research brings to us as individuals, societies and global communities, but also that they gain some experience of how research is carried out.
“Today’s event will see Queen’s researchers offer a range of exciting, hands-on projects to engage pupils, and give them a glimpse of how science, technology, engineering and the humanities are changing our world.
“We are delighted that the RCUK funding will allow our young researchers to interact with Year 9 and 10 students from 34 schools across Northern Ireland in a variety of projects that will both enrich their experience of the curriculum and inspire them to think about their contribution to our futures.”
Mrs Nicola Boyd and Mrs Patricia Menary (Robin's sister and mother) present Dr Tom Flannery with a cheque for £17,000
Dr Tom Flannery, Consultant Neurosurgeon and Senior Lecturer in Surgical Oncology at Queen’s University’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, was happy to accept an award for £17,000 from the Robin Menary Foundation.
Dr Flannery, who is conducting pioneering research into malignant gliomas at Queen’s said: “I am immensely grateful to the Robin Menary Foundation for their incredible donation which will enable us to continue our research into how glioblastomas invade and are resistant to radiotherapy.”
The Robin Menary Foundation was set up in December 2011, following the death of Robin Menary – a Bangor man – at the age of 38 from a brain tumour and has already raised more than £25,000 to fund research into brain tumours.
Robin was treated at Belfast’s City and Royal Victoria Hospitals following his diagnosis with a grade IV glioblastoma multiforme – one of the deadliest forms of cancer. He was just 36 old and, along with his wife, Catherine, who was seven months pregnant, was looking forward to the birth of their much wanted twins. Just 17 months later he passed away, leaving his entire family devastated.
Nikki Boyd, Robin’s sister explained: “Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer with incidences increasing at an alarming rate. Only 14% of those diagnosed with brain cancer survive beyond five years compared to 50% for most other cancers, rising to as high as 80% for others. Yet when Robin was diagnosed, we discovered that research into this disease, which devastates families, leaving children without a parent, and parents without a child, is shockingly underfunded with less than 1% of cancer research spending over the last ten years being used on sustainable, scientific research to discover more effective treatments and ultimately a cure. That is why we set up the Robin Menary Foundation to raise much needed funds for research into brain tumours.
“When someone you love is told that they have cancer it is devastating, but when they are told that it is incurable and that the prognosis is extremely poor, it is beyond anyone’s worst nightmare. We should be looking forward to celebrating Robin’s 40th birthday on the 28th May this year and he should be enjoying seeing his beautiful twins, Rachel and Rory – now three years old – growing up. They are the image of Robin.”
Robin’s mother, Paddy Menary, remembers: “Robin was a fantastic husband, son, brother, uncle and friend and in the precious few months he had with his twins, a wonderful daddy. Despite going through gruelling radio and chemotherapy, he was just like any new dad. He was so proud of Rory and Rachel and their beautiful mum, Catherine.”
Nikki concludes: “We are determined that Robin’s life will not have been wasted and are proud that we have already been able to support research both here in Belfast and at Brain Tumour Research’s Centre of Excellence in the University of Portsmouth in the South of England. The work of the Robin Menary Foundation is about giving real hope, the one thing Robin didn’t have, to others unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with this dreadful disease.”
Contemporary cancer research produces an astonishing amount of data with high-throughput technologies like proteomics, microarrays or sequencing approaches. For this reason computer-based methods are required to explore, visualize and analyze such data by means of algorithms. Dr Frank Emmert-Streib and his colleague Professor Matthias Dehmer (UMIT, Austria) teamed up to edit the book ‘Statistical Diagnostics for Cancer: Analyzing High-Dimensional Data’, published by Wiley-Blackwell. This book provides a valuable collection of chapters addressing important topics that are centered around a sensible statistical analysis of the data.
Due to the breathtaking progress made during recent years, many experimental approaches that originated in molecular and cellular biology are now on the verge of entering medical and clinical practice. For this reason, a major goal of the book is to advocate and promote novel analysis methods that hold great promise of being beneficial for prognostic and diagnostic purposes in systems and personalized medicine.
Dr Frank Emmert-Streib said: "Despite the intriguing opportunities we are having nowadays in many areas of science, it is important to ensure that a conducted data analysis of any kind uses appropriate statistical approaches. However, in cancer research this is even more important because the data relate to real people. Our book aims to advocate a general awareness of this aspect and to provide an insight into current developments."
Paul Villanti (Centre) visiting the CCRCB in February
The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology was delighted to host Paul Villanti, the Chief Executive of Movember, during his recent visit to the UK in February. Paul spent two busy days in Belfast, meeting the many stakeholders concerned with Men’s Health issues and specifically prostate cancer from within the University, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, and the local cancer charitable sector.
During his visit, Paul joined those brave individuals from CCRCB who grew moustaches in November, raising almost £1,000 for prostate cancer research.
In the few years that the Movember movement has been in existence, it has transformed the global research landscape for prostate cancer. Paul was given insights into the clinical and scientific prostate cancer research ongoing within CCRCB and the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre.
In keeping with Movember’s current global action plan around promoting well annotated prostate cancer tissue for research, he was especially impressed with his tour through the NI Molecular Pathology Laboratory and its digital pathology capabilities.
L-R: Queen's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Peter Gregson; Professor Manuel-Salto Tellez, Queen's/BHSCT; Health Minister, Edwin Poots; Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride and Mr Colm Donaghy, Chief Executive, BHSCT
Brendan Crummey (13) from Belfast, son of the late political satirist Sean Crummey is joined by Professor Manuel SaltoTellez, Professor of Molecular Pathology at Queen's and Consultant Pathologist, BHSCT and Dr Jackie James, Lecturer in Pathology and Consultant in the BHSCT at the opening of the Northern Ireland Molecular Pathology Laboratory and Northern Ireland Biobank at Queen's University Belfast
The opening of a new cancer facility at Queen’s University Belfast (Wednesday, 9 January), the first integrated laboratory of its kind in the UK and Ireland, is to revolutionise cancer research and diagnosis for thousands of patients across Northern Ireland.
The new facility is a partnership between Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
The opening of the Northern Ireland Molecular Pathology Lab (NI-MPL) and Northern Ireland Biobank (NIB), means oncologists are now better placed to decide on the best treatment for their patients thanks to improved diagnoses.
The improved diagnoses are as a result of solid tumour samples being examined at a molecular level. This new level of testing helps oncologists tailor individual treatments to individual patients, offering a new era of personalised medicine in Northern Ireland. It will also advance meaningful research in new cancer diagnostics and new cancer treatments.
Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez, Professor of Molecular Pathology at Queen’s and Clinical Consultant Pathologist, BHSCT said: “Each cancer is unique in its genetic make-up. Testing at the molecular level allows us to identify changes in the cancer’s genome that are associated with better outcomes, and better lives, for the patients who suffer from certain types of cancer.
“Our distinctive combination of molecular diagnostics and research under the one roof, supported by the Biobank, makes this facility unique in these islands. We are now routinely delivering a number of diagnostic tests for the patient and along with our colleagues in the Belfast Trust, and across Northern Ireland, we are taking yet more significant steps on the journey, started by our oncologists years ago, which has seen us make significant improvements in cancer survival over the last 15 years.”
Explaining the difference the new facility will make to patients, Professor Joe O’Sullivan, Professor of Radiation Oncology, said: “This new Molecular Pathology facility at Queen’s will improve outcomes for patients by providing more detailed information to doctors about a particular cancer and facilitating the delivery of more individualised cancer treatment.”
Colm Donaghy, Chief Executive, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said: “Already, over 1,000 patients in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have had their tumours analysed by the new laboratory. The diagnostic activity of the laboratory is under the direct governance of the Trust, making sure that it meets the highest standards of quality in healthcare. Once fully operational, several thousand people with cancer of the colon, breast, lung and skin, among others, will benefit each year from the new facility. Together with Queen’s we are developing new models that may define the way medicine will be delivered in the future.”
Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Peter Gregson added: “The opening of this facility is yet another important illustration of how the research programme within Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology is benefiting patient care in Northern Ireland. Along with our partners in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Queen’s is committed to ensuring that the advances made in our laboratories can continue to revolutionise patient care and bring new hope to people everywhere.”
An important new aspect of the MPL is the creation of the Northern Ireland Biobank (NIB).
The NIB provides researchers with the ability to access human tissue and blood samples for their research within a firmly regulated framework. This means that researchers can access tissue samples and progress their work at an increased pace, sharing their knowledge with colleagues across the globe.
Dr Jackie James, Scientific Director of the NIB, Senior Lecturer in Pathology and Consultant in the BHSCT, explained how it will benefit researchers at home and around the world. She said: “To carry out research that is meaningful, good quality clinical material with good quality clinical and pathological information is essential. The NIB provides all of this within a timely and strict ethical framework.”
Professor Bernie Hannigan, Director of Health and Social Care Research and Development (HSC R&D), a division of the Public Health Agency (PHA), who helped fund the NIB, said: “The Northern Ireland Biobank is evidence of the important contribution that HSC R&D funding makes to current and future research and patient care both in Belfast and across Northern Ireland. We are delighted to support this facility as it is vital that the services patients receive are underpinned by world-class research. In addition, we are committed to the future expansion of the Biobank so that patients with illnesses other than cancer can also benefit from its innovative services.”
Professor Nic Jones, Cancer Research UK’s chief scientist, said: “This unique resource provides an example to the world by bringing together scientists, doctors and patients to make targeted treatments available sooner for cancer patients in Northern Ireland.
“Cancer Research UK is proud to support a team of scientists who have expertise in using this essential tissue resource to understand how to classify patients into groups so that they can receive the most effective treatment targeted to the faults in their DNA, and avoid unnecessary treatment with difficult side effects. We believe that nurturing world-class research in Northern Ireland will accelerate progress in research leading to increased survival from the disease.”
Charity Friends of the Cancer Centre supported the setting up of the Management Information System within the Northern Ireland Biobank. It’s Director Colleen Shaw, said: “Friends of the Cancer Centre are delighted to support the Northern Ireland Biobank by supporting the setting up of the Management Information System (MIS). The MIS will be instrumental in supporting tissue collections for new and innovative cancer research in Northern Ireland, benefitting both the NI clinical cancer research community and future cancer patients. The charity is also committed to the future expansion of the Biobank.”
To view the QTV feature of this event, please visit: http://www.qub.ac.uk/home/ceao/Qtv/Research/stories/Name,363905,en.html
Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s University. Tel: +44 (0)28 90 97 5384, m 07814 415 451 or email Lisa.Mcelroy@qub.ac.uk
Congratulations to CCRCB PhD Students Fabio Liberante, Sukanya Suresh and Richard Armstrong who graduated at Winter Graduation 2012.
A memorial fund set up in memory of the political satirist Sean Crummey has donated £18,000 to Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB).
The Folks on the Hill creator and impersonator, who graduated from Queen’s in 1980 with a BA in French and Classical Greek, died in November 2011 from a cancer-related illness aged 53.
The presentations were made on behalf of the Sean Crummey Memorial Fund set up to support bowel cancer research in the CCRCB. The money was raised through events organised by La Salle Golf Society, Ardglass Captain’s Day and an Entertainers Golf Day in September by groups with close links to the former entertainer.
Among those at the presentation were Sean’s wife Gabrielle, daughter Niamh and son Brendan and his brother, Brendan. Sean’s former consultant, Dr Richard Wilson and local entertainer John Linehan, better known as May McFettridge, were also present as were Sean’s nieces Deirbhile and Caoimhe Maguire and Marie Therese Fleming, who raised over £110 in a cake sale at St Dominic's Grammar School on the Falls Road earlier in the year.
“This is a very appropriate way to honour Sean,” said Gabrielle. “The studentship allows the family to express gratitude for the care Sean received from Dr Richard Wilson and his colleagues at Queen’s and is a way of helping others who may face the challenges that cancer brings.
”It is a real privilege to be able to make some contribution towards the work of CCRCB. As a family we are very gratified to be associated with the Centre,” added Gabrielle.
The gifts were received on behalf of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology by Dr David Waugh, Acting Director of the CCRCB in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s.
Dr David Waugh said: “Bowel cancer affects more that 35,000 people a year in the UK. In Northern Ireland alone, around 1,000 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer last year. Research in CCRCB is focused on developing tailored treatment strategies to improve outcomes for bowel cancer patients. Research led by Professor Patrick Johnston, a global authority on the disease, has provided us with an improved understanding by which colon cancers develop resistance to current treatments.
“These gifts from the Sean Crummey Memorial Fund will enable Queen’s to conduct further research that will underpin an improved genetic understanding of bowel cancers. This knowledge will enable our scientists and clinicians to identify new therapeutic strategies and simultaneously develop the tests that we can use to identify those patients in which these treatments will be effective. Public support such as that demonstrated today is vital to ensure that world class cancer treatment is available to people in Northern Ireland.”
The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology has gained global recognition for its pioneering work since it opened in 2007. Survival rates for cancer in Northern Ireland are now among the best in the UK. Earlier this year an initiative led by Queen’s, in partnership with the local Health and Social Care Trusts, reorganising cancer treatment throughout Northern Ireland, won a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson
Queen’s University is celebrating after it was named Sunday Times University of the Year runner-up and top University in the UK for Medical Science and Pharmacy.
Competing with universities across the UK, Queen’s also moved up 20 places to 26th position overall in the Sunday Times University Guide 2013, its highest ever ranking.
Alastair McCall, Editor of The Sunday Times University Guide, said: “Queen’s plays a pivotal role in the economy and life of Northern Ireland. It is about as far removed from ivory towered academia as it is possible to get. No university in the UK generates more money from companies spun out of its research work and this year’s Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its pioneering cancer research work acknowledges Queen’s’ contribution in this field, which benefits the people of Northern Ireland on a daily basis and has implications for the wider world going forward.
“But the real winners are the students who study here in an environment both rich in history and exuding the dynamism they will all need to succeed in a challenging world environment.”
Commenting on the tremendous achievement Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: “Queen’s is recognised as a University that links Northern Ireland to the global community through the life-changing experience we offer to our students, the distinctive contribution made to our society by graduates and the high quality and impact of our research.
“It is encouraging that Medical Science and Pharmacy at Queen’s are being nationally recognised as best in class. The University has recently invested over £90 million on an ambitious plan to create an internationally recognised School and Institute of Health Sciences, with a further £85 million expenditure anticipated over the next five years. This will ensure that laboratory discoveries translate into advances in patient diagnosis and treatment.
“Queen’s world-class medical school was also recognised earlier this year when the University was presented with a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize at Buckingham Palace, in recognition of its leadership of the Northern Ireland Comprehensive Cancer Services programme.
“This is an exciting time to be studying and working at Queen’s, but it is also an exciting time for everyone associated with Queen’s, as the university continues on its upward trajectory.”
Dr Stephen Farry, Minister for Employment and Learning congratulated Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson on the achievements of his Institution in the recent Sunday Times University Guide 2013 saying: “I know Queen's University Belfast is committed to being a world class institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching, learning and research and these results are a testament to the hard work of all the teaching and support staff at the institution and in particular those of the Medical Science department. The Higher Education Sector is pivotal to the development of a modern, sustainable and knowledge based economy and at a time of increased global competition it is heartening to see a Northern Ireland institution leading the way.”
The Sunday Times awards are the latest in a number of accolades Queen’s University has received in recent months. Last week Queen’s recorded its best ever results in the National Student Survey, with an overall satisfaction score of 87 per cent and its Students’ Union placed in the top quartile of all UK Universities. During the summer the University was ranked 25th in the UK by the Complete University Guide 2013, with 14 of its subjects ranked in the top 20. And in the latest QS World University Rankings, Queen’s moved up to 166, representing significant progress in its ambition to be recognised as a Global Top 100 University.
Ms Helen Barnes (Head of Medical Fundraising at Queen's); Mr Darren Clarke and Dr David Waugh (Acting Director, CCRCB)
Darren Clarke OBE, the 2011 Open Golf Champion and veteran of five consecutive European Ryder Cup teams, visited Queen’s University Belfast on Friday 14 September to present a cheque for £80,000 from the Darren Clarke Foundation to the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB).
Through the Darren Clarke Foundation, the Northern Ireland golfer has been a major supporter of cancer research, donating to a number of local and national cancer charities.
Presenting the cheque, Darren Clarke said: “I am delighted to support the Centre for Cancer research at Queen’s University through my Foundation and I am hopeful this is the start of a long-term relationship.”
The gift was received on behalf of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology by Dr David Waugh, Acting Director of the CCRCB in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s.
“More women in Northern Ireland are surviving breast cancer than ever before, thanks to earlier detection and better treatments. But there is so much more to be done to accelerate our impact on this disease.
“This generous gift from the Darren Clarke Foundation will enable us to continue our research into aggressive forms of cancer, including breast cancer, and accelerate the pace and quality of cancer research worldwide,” concluded Dr David Waugh.
Dr David Waugh added: “Between 1993 and 2009, the number of women dying from cancer has gone down by 0.9 per cent and survival rates for cancer in Northern Ireland are now among the best in the UK. Some of our survivors are currently alive and well a significant number of years after the kind of cancer that not so long ago would have taken them from us. At CCRCB, with the continued support of donors, large and small, we can continue to wage war on Cancer.”
The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology has gained global recognition for its pioneering work since it opened in 2007. Survival rates for cancer in Northern Ireland are now among the best in the UK. Earlier this year an initiative led by Queen’s, in partnership with the local Health and Social Care Trusts, reorganising cancer treatment throughout Northern Ireland, won a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize.
If you would like to support cancer research at Queen’s please contact the Medical Fundraising Team on 028 9097 1568.
Professor Dennis McCance
A major breakthrough by scientists at Queen’s could lead to more effective treatments for throat and cervical cancer.
The discovery could see the development of new therapies, which would target the non-cancerous cells surrounding a tumour, as well as treating the tumour itself.
Researchers at Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology have found that the non-cancerous tissue, or ‘stroma’, surrounding cancers of the throat and cervix, plays an important role in regulating the spread of cancer cells.
The discovery opens the door for the development of new treatments which, by targeting this non-cancerous tissue, could prevent it being invaded by neighbouring cancer cells.
The research, led by Professor Dennis McCance, has just been published in the European Molecular Biology Organization Journal. Professor McCance said: “Cancer spreads as the result of two-way communication between the cancer cells in a tumour and the non-cancerous cells in the surrounding tissue.
“We already know that cancer cells are intrinsically programmed to invade neighbouring healthy tissue. But the cells in the non-cancerous tissue are also programmed to send messages to the cancer cells, actively encouraging them to invade. If these messages – sent from the healthy tissue to the tumour - can be switched-off, then the spread of the cancer will be inhibited.
“What we have discovered is that a particular protein in non-cancerous tissue has the ability to either open or close the communication pathway between the healthy tissue and the tumour. When the Retinoblastoma protein (Rb) in non-cancerous tissue is activated, this leads to a decrease in factors that encourage invasion by cancer cells. And so, the cancer doesn’t spread.”
The Rb protein is found in both cancer and non-cancerous tissue. Its importance in regulating the growth of cancer cells from within tumours is already well-documented, but this is the first time scientists have identified the role of the Rb found in healthy tissue, in encouraging or discouraging the spread of cancer.
The research was conducted using three-dimensional tissue samples, grown in Professor McCance’s lab, to replicate the stroma tissue found around cancers of the throat and cervix.
Speaking about the potential implications for cancer treatment, Professor McCance continued: “Current treatments for cancer focus on targeting the tumour itself, in order to kill the cancer cells before they spread. This discovery opens the door for us to develop new treatments that would target the normal tissue surrounding a tumour, as opposed to the tumour itself. By specifically targeting pathways controlled by the Rb protein, it would be possible to switch-off the messages that encourage cancer cells to invade, and inhibit the spread of the tumour.
“Our research has focussed on cancers of the throat and cervix. But it is possible that Rb or other proteins in the healthy tissue surrounding other types of cancer, may play a similar role in regulating the spread of tumour cells. Therefore, the implications of this discovery could go far beyond throat and cervical cancer, and that is something we plan to investigate further.”
The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre and the National Institutes of Health (USA), and was supported by the Northern Ireland Biobank.
The research paper, entitled ‘Inactivation of Rb in stromal fibroblasts promotes epithelial cell invasion’ can be found online at http://www.nature.com/emboj/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/emboj2012153a.html
Professor Patrick Johnston
One of the UK’s leading medical researchers has been recognised for excellence in medical science. Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast has been elected to the Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences.
Professor Johnston has been honoured for outstanding contributions to the advancement of medical science and, in particular, his work on cancer research and treatment of patients.
Commenting on the prestigious accolade, Professor Johnston said: “I am delighted to have been elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. It is an honour and privilege to have had my contribution to medical science, in particular my contribution to cancer research and cancer patients recognised in this way.”
Welcoming the announcement, Queen’s University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: “This is a tremendous personal accolade for one of the UK’s finest cancer researchers. Professor Johnston’s award is further recognition of the outstanding work he is doing at Queen’s University as he continues to build an internationally recognised School and Institute of Health Sciences that will have both a local and global impact.
The Academy’s Fellows are the United Kingdom’s leading medical scientists and are elected for outstanding contribution to the advancement of medical science, for innovative application of scientific knowledge or for their conspicuous service to healthcare. Professor Johnston will be formally admitted to the Academy at a ceremony in London on Wednesday 27 June 2012.
L-R: Professor Patrick Johnston (Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University); Professor Sir Peter Gregson (President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University); Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Gavin Robinson; Dr David Waugh (Acting Director, CCRCB); Professor Joe O’Sullivan (Professor of Radiation Oncology and Clinical Oncologist, CCRCB)
L-R: Dr David Waugh (Acting Director, CCRCB); Professor Joe O’Sullivan (Professor of Radiation Oncology and Clinical Oncologist, CCRCB); Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez (Acting Deputy Director, CCRCB); Mrs Katie Scott (CR-UK Research Engagement Manager); Professor Sir Peter Gregson (President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University); Professor Patrick Johnston (Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University); Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Gavin Robinson and Ms Ruth Boyd (CR-UK Senior Research and Information Nurse)
On Friday 20 July 2012 the Lord Mayor of Belfast paid a visit to the Belfast Cancer Research UK (CR-UK) Centre to find out about the pioneering prostate cancer research taking place in the city. The visit was arranged by Mrs Katie Scott, CR-UK Belfast Local Engagement and Development Manager.
During the visit he met with Dr David Waugh and Professor Joe O’Sullivan. Dr Waugh is leading a CR-UK funded project to identify ways to improve radiotherapy for men with prostate cancer. He also works closely with Professor O’Sullivan to translate his research to the benefit of patients at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre.
The Lord Mayor was also taken on a guided tour of the labs by Dr Stephen Walker and took up the challenge of loading a gel using a pipette with great enthusiasm.
The visit was a fantastic success with the newly elected Lord Mayor expressing a clear interest in working in partnership with CR-UK and CCRCB to raise awareness of male cancers and to champion the Belfast CR-UK Centre.
Programme Coordinator Dr Karen McCloskey and Professor Dennis McCance welcome Summer Research Students to CCRCB
During a recent visit to CCRCB, The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Gavin Robinson, Professor Sir Peter Gregson (President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen's University) and Professor Patrick Johnston (Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen's Univeristy) met with the CCRCB Summer Students and discussed their summer research projects
The CCRCB welcomed twenty one students from the UK, EU and the USA to our Summer Research Programme 2012 on Monday 2 July 2012. Following on from last year’s successful programme, our current cohort of students come from a diverse range of backgrounds including biomedical science, medicine, biochemistry and computational biology. In addition, school pupils who are between years 13 and 14 from Northern Ireland schools have been awarded Nuffield Foundation bursaries to undertake internships in the Centre.
Students have been assigned to projects within the Centre’s focus groups which encompass haematological malignancies; breast, gastrointestinal and genitourinary cancers; radiation biology and bioinformatics. While participating in original research as part of a dynamic group, students acquire practical laboratory techniques, gain knowledge of data analysis and interpretation and obtain first-hand experience of an academic research environment. At the end of the programme, all summer students will present their work to the CCRCB at a poster presentation symposium and will prepare a report for their academic and laboratory supervisors. Participation in summer research enables students to make informed career choices in addition to enhancing their personal and technical skills portfolios.
Networking among the summer students is facilitated by the Induction Programme which includes a welcome lunch in CCRCB in addition to a school-wide social event and reception.
Funding for this year’s Summer Research Programme has been granted from the CCRCB, the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, NI Leukaemia Research Fund and the Nuffield Foundation.
Over 8,000 new cases of cancer (4,100 in men and 4,000 in women) were diagnosed on average each year between 2006-2010 in Northern Ireland - a rise from an average of 6,288 cases diagnosed each year between 1993-1996.
In addition there were 3,000 cases diagnosed per year of non-melanoma skin cancer, an easily treated cancer.
In 2010 specifically there were 4,133 male and 4,107 females diagnosed with a serious cancer, (excluding 1,725 men and 1,304 women diagnosed with non melanoma skin cancer).
The latest figures are contained in a report launched today by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s University Belfast, entitled, Cancer Incidence and Survival in Northern Ireland 2006-2010. The report is an official statistics publication.
In the 2006-2010 period cancer incidence rates in the most deprived quintile of the Northern Ireland population were higher than for those in the least deprived areas.
The most deprived quintile saw 410 cases per 100,000 women, and 520 cases per 100,000 men, while the least deprived saw 340 cases per 100,000 women and 410 cases per 100,000 men. A large proportion of the difference was due to lung cancers.
The report shows that if the lower levels of lung cancer found in affluent areas of Northern Ireland applied to the most deprived areas, there would be 197 fewer lung cancers in women and 236 fewer cases in men each year.
This higher level in more deprived areas is due to the higher levels of tobacco use and points to an area of ongoing work to reduce tobacco use especially among women and the more deprived areas of the Northern Ireland population. In the period 2006-2010 the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust area had the highest incidence rates of lung cancer in Northern Ireland.
Other findings included in the report are:
- In women, numbers of breast, lung and malignant melanoma are increasing with time.
- During 2006-2010, the most common cancer in women was breast cancer with 1,209 women diagnosed in 2010, an increase of approximately a third from 820 diagnosed per year 1993-1996.
- Lung cancer incidence rates decreased for men, while prostate and malignant melanoma rates increased.
- Prostate cancer was the most common male cancer with 942 men diagnosed in 2010 a doubling from the 450 diagnosed on average each year 1993-1996.
- Malignant melanoma is the most rapidly increasing cancer in NI, rising from an average of only 30 cases per year in males and 62 cases per year in females in 1984-1986 to 116 male and 157 female cases per year during the 2006 to 2010 period. This represents a 1.9 per cent annual rise in women, and a 2.7 per cent per year rise in men.
Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s said: “While some of the rising numbers are related to the increasing age and number of the population, breast cancer, melanoma and prostate cancers have increased at a rate above other cancers.
“Lung cancer is a preventable disease if tobacco use was reduced. It has shown a fall in numbers among men but not among women, efforts should be doubled to reduce tobacco consumption in our society.
“The rapid rise in melanomas which is increasing in men, faster than women and is more common in residents of more affluent areas, is related to changing dress and sunbathing behaviour in the sun, and the use of sunbeds. The population should be advised to avoid sunbed use completely and to enjoy the sun but avoid sunburn especially among children.”
Survival has improved for many cancers since the start of data collection by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s in 1993. Five-year survival rates increased over 1993-2010 for breast, colorectal, prostate cancers, but only slightly for lung cancer.
The full report is available to view online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/
Congratulations to the winners of the annual CCRCB Student Postgraduate Symposiums Mr Chris Armstrong (First Year), Ms Gemma Logan (Second Year) and Ms Ann-Christin Cichon (Third Year) pictured with Dr Karen McCloskey, CCRCB Associate Director for Postgraduate Studies.
L-R: Professor Kevin Prise, Dr Jason Carroll and Professor Dennis McCance
The Cancer Research UK Centre Lecture took place in CCRCB on 7 June 2012. The lecture was given by Dr Jason Carroll, Cambridge Research Institute, pictured (centre) with Professor Kevin Prise and Professor Dennis McCance.
The title of Dr Carroll's lecture was "Understanding Estrogen Receptor Transcription in Breast Cancer". His work described how the oestrogen receptor in breast cells is directed to various genes by a pioneer protein. Dr Carroll also talked about an exciting new method to elucidate proteins that bind to the oestrogen receptor and potentially control its function and so both areas of research open up new methods of inhibiting the transcriptional activity of the oestrogen receptor.
During his visit Dr Carroll met with several of the Principal Investigators in CCRCB and had an opportunity to talk to the Post-doctoral Research Fellows and Postgraduate Research Students about their research programmes.
Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University Professor Sir Peter Gregson and Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Buckingham Palace
Despite the rising incidence of cancer in Northern Ireland, the number of people surviving the disease here is increasing significantly year on year.
Each year there are between 50-60 men and women who survive the deadly effects of cancer who previously would have died.
The survival rates in Northern Ireland for cancers including breast and colorectal are among the best in the UK, and its patients are benefiting from improved treatment outcomes by up to four per cent better than those for England and Wales.
The figures have been revealed today as Queen’s University Belfast is presented with a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize at Buckingham Palace, in recognition of its leadership of the Northern Ireland Comprehensive Cancer Services (CCS) programme.
The CCS programme has been credited with driving forward the improvements in cancer survival in Northern Ireland. It is a collaboration led by Queen’s University in partnership with the Department of Health and the five Northern Ireland Health Trusts with support from the medical research industry.
The programme has resulted in the reorganisation of cancer services across Northern Ireland, and investment of more than £200 million in infrastructure and personnel for treatment and research by the University and the health service.
The CCS programme was also recently described by the distinguished medical journal, The Oncologist, as ‘life-extending research that is emblematic of the way cancer medicine should be conducted in the 21st century.’
Accepting the prize, Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said: “Despite the rising incidence rates of cancer, between 1993 and 2009, the number of men dying from cancer has gone down by 1.3 per cent and the number of women by 0.9 per cent. Some of our survivors are currently alive and well a significant number of years after the kind of cancer that not so long ago would have taken them from us.
“Cancer no longer needs to be seen as an inevitable death sentence. In many instances it can now be viewed instead as a chronic disease.”
He added: “This award underpins our reputation as a global centre of excellence for cancer care. To receive it is a singular honour, not just for Queen’s but for the whole of Northern Ireland and in particular all the fundraisers, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the five Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Trusts and our supporters from the national and international medical research industry.
“Our strength lies in a multidisciplinary approach – teams of scientists and clinicians working together across academic and NHS boundaries on behalf of cancer patients and their families.”
Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: “Queen’s is committed to high quality translational research. We are seeing innovations which are providing life-saving and life-enhancing results, reflecting our drive to become a global force in the fight against cancer.”
The pillars of the CCS programme are the Clinical Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, the Cancer Research Programme at Queen’s and the University’s Northern Ireland Cancer Registry which provides vital information about research and outcomes.
Dr Gareth Irwin performing a lab demonstration for the Teachers in CCRCB
CCRCB Researchers and Teachers at the Information Day
Almost 40 AS and A-level Biology teachers from across Northern Ireland had the opportunity to become involved in the latest cancer research techniques at a special event at CCRCB on Friday 1 June 2012.
As well as hearing about the latest developments in gene technology – a key aspect of the AS and A-level Biology syllabus – they were able to watch CCRCB’s researchers at work and, under their expert guidance, got the opportunity to extract DNA from cancer cells. The event was organised by Cancer Research UK and Queen’s University Belfast. Queen’s is a key partner in the Belfast Cancer Research UK (CR-UK) Centre. It is one of 17 designated CR-UK Centres across the UK and the only one in Northern Ireland.
Both the Belfast CR-UK Centre and Queen’s are committed to encouraging young people to pursue careers in cancer research and this is the second time that these two partners have come together to host this annual event for teachers. It is part of a series of schools events which see scientists at the CCRCB engaging students and teachers in cancer research, both in the Centre and out in the community.
During the day, Professor Dennis McCance gave a unique insight into the use of genetics in personalised medicine, and how scientists can identify genetic markers in a patient’s blood to predict how that patient will respond to various treatments. Breakthroughs in this area of research are enabling doctors to plan more personalised treatment for cancer patients. Teachers also heard how new DNA technology is helping unlock the secrets of the past and present. Professor Patrick Morrison gave a presentation explaining how DNA from the skeleton of a 17th century giant was used to trace its present-day relatives, and how gene technology is used by forensic scientists to solve otherwise ‘perfect’ crimes.
The event was a great success and received positive feedback from the researchers and teachers who participated in it.
For more information about these schools events contact Katie Scott, CR-UK Local Engagement and Development Manager via email email@example.com or telephone 028 9097 2715 / 07795 290 122.
L-R: Dr Lisa Crawford, Ms Gemma Logan, Ms Jodie Hay and Ms Laura Kettyle
CCRCB researchers have joined forces to become the ‘Red Heroes’ to support Northern Ireland Leukaemia Research Fund (NILRF) in the 2012 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon.
On Monday 7 May 2012, The ‘Red Heroes’ will each run a leg of the Belfast City Marathon and raise vital funds for leukaemia research in Northern Ireland. You can follow the ‘Red Heroes’ training and fundraising progress on twitter - @redheroes64 and you can donate online through their justgiving page – www.justgiving.com/redheroes
PhD student Jodie Hay who is part of the team said: “The Belfast City Marathon is a great opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to come together, have some fun and raise money for charity.” Jodie has persuaded friends to take part from her home country of Scotland and be part of the red heroes.
Caroline Crothers, Co-ordinator for NILRF, said: “With the Belfast City Marathon being one of the biggest fundraising events in Northern Ireland we are so pleased to have support like this and we hope that as many people as possible will join our ‘Red Heroes’ and put on their running shoes for NILRF. And if you can’t take part by running, I would encourage people to come together to sponsor and cheer on people running for the charity.”
For more information on the 2012 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon log on to www.belfastcitymarathon.com and to find out about joining the ‘Red Heroes’ contact 028 9097 2928 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Sandra McKillop (Brainwaves NI) with the speakers at the Brain Tumour Research Information Evening, from left, Dr Ali Shoakazemi, Dr Tom Flannery, Dr Stephen McQuaid, Dr Chris Scott, Dr Fred Currell and Professor Richard Kennedy
With more children and people under the age of 40 dying of a brain tumour than any other cancer in the United Kingdom, a leading researcher at Queen’s University Belfast is calling for an increase in spending on vital research.
Currently 16,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year in the UK. In Northern Ireland alone, approximately 200–250 brain tumour cases are operated on annually.
The call comes ahead of an event being organised by charity Brainwaves NI, as part of Brain Tumour Awareness month. The charity and the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s are hosting an information evening to raise awareness about the prevalence of brain tumours and the need for vital research.
Taking place at 7pm on Wednesday, 28 March, the event is an opportunity for those affected by a brain tumour to find out about pioneering local research and to meet some of the leading researchers. Participants will also have an opportunity to take a tour of the laboratories and to meet with the researchers and clinicians involved in this research.
Dr Tom Flannery, lead brain tumour researcher at CCRCB at Queen’s, said: “The fact that brain tumours are the cause of more deaths of people under the age of 40 than any other cancer shows how much we need to address this issue. A greater awareness of, and a commitment for more funding into research on brain tumours, is essential in order to lower the number of people dying from the disease.
“The focus of our local research programme is on malignant gliomas – the most common adult primary malignant brain tumour. These tumours are characterised by their ability to invade the normal brain and by their relative resistance to current treatments. The incidence of these tumours is increasing worldwide making the need to find better treatments paramount to clinicians and scientists.”
Sandra McKillop from Brainwaves NI said: “There is a real need to accelerate progress and improve treatments and outcomes for those affected by a brain tumour in Northern Ireland. Research into brain tumours receives less than 1 per cent of the national spend on cancer research and we, along with the researchers at Queen’s, are calling for this to be increased. By hosting this event we hope to increase awareness of brain tumours and encourage further funding for research.
“With the fundraising support of the local community, Brainwaves NI are making a difference. The Charity has financed the establishment of a malignant glioma tumour bank in Northern Ireland, a valuable resource to brain tumour researchers across the UK, and part financed the appointment of a post-doctoral research fellow to carry out this research. We are pleased to be working in partnership with the CCRCB and have further ambitious plans to support local brain tumour research.”
For more information on the event and to find out more about the support available from Brainwaves NI or how you can get involved in raising vital funds for local research, go to www.brainwaves-ni.org or call 028 9335 3995.
MPN & MPNr-EuroNet meeting delegates
Clinicians and Scientists from twenty-two countries around the world arrived in Belfast to attend the fifth Molecular Diagnosis of MyeloProliferative Neoplasms (MPN) and MPN related congenital diseases. The meeting was held in Riddel Hall at Queen’s University Belfast from 7-9 March 2012. This meeting was organised by Professor Mary Frances McMullin who was chair of one of the working groups within the study.
Participants to the fifth MPN & MPNr-EuroNet meeting had the opportunity to hear from the leading experts about the newest developments in the molecular diagnosis of MPN and related congenital diseases. They each had the opportunity to present their own work and original diagnostic assays and exchange with colleagues on the newest genes and techniques of interest in the field of MPN, congenital erythrocytosis and hereditary thrombocythemia. The programme included presentations from Professor Mary Frances McMullin, Professor Ken Mills, Dr Claire Arnold and other clinical colleagues in the Belfast City Hospital.
The MPN & MPNr-EuroNet has contributed to the innovation, optimization and standardization of the biological diagnosis of MPN and related congenital diseases in Europe.
The first audit of leukaemia treatment and survival in Northern Ireland by the Cancer Registry (NICR) at Queen’s University Belfast has shown that survival rates for the disease here are at the highest levels since data collection began in 1993.
For children with the disease, survival has improved dramatically from under 10 per cent in the 1960 to1970s, to the current level of over 80 per cent for five year survival.
The NICR researchers also examined the changes in service and outcome for patients with pancreatic cancer.
While pancreatic cancer has very poor survival, the Registry has documented a doubling in survival for patients diagnosed in 2010 compared with 2008 (18 per cent from 9 per cent), which the researchers say could be due to the changes in service provision including centralising the service to one site, the Mater hospital in Belfast.
The leukaemia audit further revealed that while each year approximately twelve children under the age of 14 are diagnosed with acute leukaemia, there are at least 200 people alive in Northern Ireland who were diagnosed as a child, reflecting the improved survival prospects. People diagnosed as children make up 20 per cent of the over 900 people alive here, who at some stage in the past 18 years, have been diagnosed with leukaemia.
Survival for non Hodgkin lymphoma has also improved dramatically since the introduction of new drug therapies - from 64 per cent for one year and 45 per cent for five year survival in 1993, to 77 per cent for one year and 58 per cent five year survival in 2008. Hodgkin lymphoma has a higher survival than non Hodgkin and has remained steady since the 1990s at 89 per cent for one year and 79 per cent for five year survival.
The figures have been revealed today as part of the Cancer Care in Northern Ireland: A decade of change event at Queen’s University Belfast organised by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and attended by Edwin Poots, MLA, Minister for Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety.
The audit results follow last week’s recognition for Queen’s at Buckingham Palace, when the University was awarded a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its leadership of the Northern Ireland Comprehensive Cancer Services programme. The programme has led to improved cancer survival rates in Northern Ireland and is a collaboration led by Queen’s in partnership with the Department of Health and the five Northern Ireland Health Trusts with support from the medical research industry.
Speaking at the conference, Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, said: “Examination of data for pancreatic cancer patients diagnosed in 2010 shows a doubling of survival, a real breakthrough for this disease. If such a survival improvement was seen from a new drug, it would hit the headlines internationally.
“Today we are documenting and celebrating such improvements in cancer services in Northern Ireland, which have come about since service reorganisation was recommended by the then chief medical officer, Dr Henrietta Campbell. The Northern Ireland Cancer Registry has, with clinicians, been monitoring the care and survival of cancer patents and recommending chance for future service improvements and will continue to do so.”
Speaking at the conference, Minister Poots took the opportunity to again congratulate the University on being honoured with a Diamond Jubilee Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education at Buckingham Palace for the work of the Registry and other areas in Queens University. He said: “I wish to congratulate Queen’s University on receiving this prestigious award for a comprehensive cancer centre and I am delighted that patients in Northern Ireland are benefiting from innovative approaches to delivering cancer services.
“The longstanding partnership between my Department, the Health and Social Care Trusts and Queen’s University illustrates the importance of investing in research and development and the contribution that clinical research can make to our health and to our local economy.”
Mr Poots said that his Department was proud of the achievements of the University and their health service partner and he was confident that leadership in research is informing improvements in treatment, and to leading clinicians and other health professionals choosing to work in Northern Ireland. The Minister concluded: “It is a real credit to Northern Ireland to have this recognition and great news for cancer sufferers that they have a greater chance of recovering.”
Further information on the work of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry is available online at www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/
L-R: Ms Sonia Boal, Dr Paul Mullan and Dr Niamh O’Brien
The third week in November was European Week of Waste Reduction. Throughout Europe local authorities, companies, schools, community groups and other organisations were asked to sign up to a commitment to reduce their waste for at least a week and record their results.
Ms Sonia Boal, from Belfast City Council, said: “BCC ran a number of projects including “Show your Support” which targeted the removal of bras from the waste stream. Initially planned as a small internal project, our idea was to arrange a collection point for bras within one of the council offices. These would be collected by our textile contractor who sends the items out to a market in Kenya where they are sold to the local population. As there is a small income from this, we thought it would be appropriate to donate this to a charity involved with breast cancer, preferably here in Northern Ireland.”
We are grateful that Belfast City Council chose the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast as their charity and presented Dr Paul Mullan’s research group with a cheque for £300.
The CCRCB Spinathon Team
L-R: Dr Michael Moran, Ms Jacqueline Stewart, Mr Neill Grainger (Ulster Cancer Foundation) and Dr Cheryl McFarlane
On 17 February 2012 a team of eighteen people representing CCRCB took part in a ‘Spinathon’ at Queen’s Sport. The event was in aid of the Ulster Cancer Foundation and has been running for the past few years for this cause.
The team took part in eight successive indoor cycling endurance classes with each member taking part for between one and eight hours, for a total of thirty-eight hours overall.
Thanks to support from family, friends and colleagues, a fantastic £1,750 was raised by the CCRCB team for the Ulster Cancer Foundation, which was part of an overall event total of over £3,200.
Jacqueline Stewart of Queen’s Sport organised the event, which has been the most successful Spinathon to date. Thanks are due to all who donated money towards the event and building on the success of this year’s effort, it is hoped that the team will have recovered in time to consider Spinathon 2013!
Celebrating the HR Excellence in Research award are, L-R: Paul Monahan from the Staff Training and Development Unit; Dr Judith Kouassi, School of Biological Sciences; Francis Guinane, Staff Training and Development Unit; Dr Simon McDade, CCRCB, Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences and Professor Bill Graham, Mathematics and Physics
Queen’s has been recognised by the European Commission for its commitment to supporting the personal, professional and career development of its researchers.
The University has been awarded the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research badge for its efforts in improving the working conditions and career development opportunities of its researchers. It was also commended for providing a clear plan of action for future developments.
Queen’s is one of only twelve universities, on this occasion, to obtain the award which will help promote the University as an attractive destination for researchers from all over the world.
Sean McGuickin, Director of Human Resources, said: “The HR Excellence in Research award demonstrates Queen’s commitment to ensuring we provide a stimulating and favourable work environment for our researchers. It gives a clear message to our current and prospective researchers that Queen’s is an employer that will invest time and resources to support them throughout their careers.”
Director of Research and Enterprise Scott Rutherford said: “This institutional award is important not only for staff development and Human Resources, but also for the overall research profile of the University in attracting staff and potentially securing funding from the EU.”
To obtain the badge, Queen’s had to follow a five-stage process. This included an internal analysis to compare current policy and practice against the ‘Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers’, which sets out seven principles for the future support and management of research careers. The University also had to develop an Action Plan to show how Queen’s will implement the principles of the Concordat.
The Action Plan, which builds on an already extensive programme of development and support provided within Schools and from the Staff Training and Development Unit, contains a range of actions with associated commitments and responsibilities in relation to the management and development of research staff. The actions relate to the management of staff, recruitment, appraisal, progression, development, engagement and creating an effective research environment.
As part of the HR Excellence in Research badge Queen’s will carry out a self-assessment every two years and an external evaluation every four years. For further information, visit www.qub.ac.uk/crs
The CCRCB Summer Research Programme provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in laboratory-based research during the summer months. Each participant will be assigned to a research project in the laboratory of a Principal Investigator and will work as part of an enthusiastic research team comprising postdoctoral fellows, research assistants, PhD students and technicians. The projects will run for an 8-week period between June and September 2012 and students will work in the laboratory from Monday to Friday on a full-time basis.
Students currently enrolled for Biomedical Sciences, Medicine, Dentistry or a related discipline who have completed at least one year of full-time study are eligible to apply. Several funded studentships are available; these typically pay a student stipend of £150 per week. All successful applicants will automatically be considered for a studentship.
The application process is now open. Please submit a current CV including your full academic profile (or transcript), a cover letter stating your reasons for applying to the Programme and the names and contact details of 2 referees. Please email your application to email@example.com for the attention of Dr Karen McCloskey, Programme Coordinator, by 1 February 2012.
Professor Kevin Prise
A new three year research project aimed at improving the effectiveness of radiotherapy treatment for men affected by prostate cancer is taking place at Queen’s.
With new and improved treatments needed for men with advanced prostate cancer, it is hoped the project will identify a new approach using radiotherapy, a commonly used treatment, to treat the disease more effectively.
Funded by a £99,273 PhD research grant awarded by The Prostate Cancer Charity, the project will first seek to understand how a man’s prostate cancer becomes resistant to radiotherapy. Following this, the researchers will test a combination of existing drug treatments alongside radiotherapy to overcome this resistance. It is hoped that the cancer will become more sensitive to radiotherapy and thereby improve the success of the treatment to stop the disease in its tracks.
Lead researcher at Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Professor of Radiation Biology Kevin Prise, said: “The use of radiotherapy to treat prostate cancer is currently restricted by the cancer’s ability to develop resistance to the treatment. Drugs exist which can help to ‘sensitise’ the cancer cells to radiotherapy, and in this study we will use these drugs in combination with radiotherapy to try and improve the success of prostate cancer treatment, using techniques that are already available.”
The grant has been awarded, as part of The Prostate Cancer Charity’s ongoing programme of investment in research to help tackle this disease. This year, the Charity has awarded over £2 million – its largest research investment to date – to institutions across the UK to improve the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.
Dr Kate Holmes, Research Manager at The Prostate Cancer Charity said: “Radiotherapy has been used for a number of years to treat prostate cancer. In some cases, however, the tumour develops resistance and does not respond well to this treatment. We hope that this new research will be able to improve the success of radiotherapy, so that it can be used to kill more cancer cells and further delay the spread of the disease. We are looking forward to working closely with the team and eagerly await the results of the study.”
Dr Sandra Van Schaeybroeck
Research into a ground-breaking treatment for bowel cancer at Queen’s University Belfast has received a massive funding boost from Cancer Research UK.
Dr Sandra Van Schaeybroeck, whose research aims to identify ways to increase survival from bowel cancer, has received a prestigious £688,000 Cancer Research UK Clinical Scientist Fellowship.
The award, which is one of only four fellowships awarded to UK clinical investigators, renews Dr Schaeybroeck’s current funding from the charity for another three years. Her research aims to develop new treatment strategies to improve bowel cancer patients’ response to treatment and increase survival of particular groups of patients with bowel cancer.
Dr Van Schaeybroeck, from the CCRCB, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, said: “Bowel cancer affects more than 35,000 people a year in the UK. A major barrier in the treatment of bowel cancer is drug resistance with more than half of patients not responding to standard chemotherapy treatment. I’m specifically aiming to identify the molecular reasons this happens in cells with specific gene faults. My ultimate goal is to increase survival in particular groups of patients with bowel cancer.
“I’m delighted to have received the renewal of the Cancer Research UK Clinician Scientist Fellowship. It is a major recognition of my research so far and the world-class cancer research ongoing at Queen’s University.
Speaking about the selection process, Professor Philip Johnson, Chair of the clinical interview panel and a world leader in cancer trials at the University of Birmingham, said: “We saw oncologists, surgeons, haematologists, public health specialists and more. It was a tough decision, but we have found five great post-doc clinicians. These are people who see clinical problems that need solving, and then do research to find solutions. They have an exciting and rewarding career ahead of them.”
Dr David Scott, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Science Funding, said: “The doctors receiving this funding are carrying out world-class research to develop new ways to diagnose and treat patients more effectively. We hope this funding will be an important boost to develop new approaches which we hope will ultimately increase survival from cancer.”
The funding is part of a total three million pound funding pot awarded to the five UK researchers - an important investment from Cancer Research UK, with the aim of identifying the next generation of clinical research leaders in the UK.
L-R: Mr Max Lusci, Ms Helen Barnes and Dr Jonathan Coulter
2011 was another great year for engagement and outreach activities within the Belfast Cancer Research UK Centre. The statistics for the year are impressive with 214 researchers/research nurses taking part in 91 events and reaching over 14,500 people.
Dr Jonathan Coulter (pictured) was the lucky researcher who won the meal for two, kindly sponsored by Villa Italia, for the researcher who took part in the most engagement activities throughout the year.
2012 will no doubt be an equally successful year under the leadership of Mrs Katie Scott who has taken over the role of Local Engagement and Development Manager for the Centre. For further information on CR-UK engagement and outreach activities please email: Katie.Scott@cancer.org.uk
L-R: Professor Dennis McCance and Dr Joan Brugge
The Mitchell Lecture was delivered on 3 November 2011 in CCRCB by Dr Joan Brugge, Harvard Medical School, Boston.
Dr Brugge talked about PI-3 kinase inhibitor induced resistance in breast cancer cells which could be overcome by inhibition of BCL-2. The interesting aspect of this work was that in a 3-dimensional culture system the induced resistance was only observed in cells with a cell to matrix attachment and not through cell to cell attachment. This was possibly mediated through integrins and may help to explain a means by which some cancer cells remain viable after drug treatment.
During her visit Dr Brugge met with a number of the Principal Investigators in CCRCB and had an opportunity to talk to the Post-doctoral Research Fellows and Postgraduate students about their ongoing research.
Northern Ireland’s Comprehensive Cancer Services programme – a major partnership between Queen’s University and Health and Social Care services, which has led to improved survival rates for patients – is to be honoured by Her Majesty the Queen.
Queen’s, in partnership with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and other Trusts providing cancer services in Northern Ireland, has led the way in significantly reorganising cancer services across Northern Ireland. The University and its health partners have invested over £200 million in infrastructure and personnel for cancer treatment and research in Northern Ireland over the past 10 years. During the same period, the survival rates for cancer patients have improved year on year, despite the increasing incidence of cancer.
At a special ceremony in St James’s Palace, the programme was announced as one of the winners of the Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education. The awards – part of the national honours system – recognise and honour outstanding achievement by universities and colleges in the United Kingdom.
Welcoming the announcement, Queen's Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: “We are delighted to learn of the award of a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Northern Ireland’s Comprehensive Cancer Services programme, and I congratulate all those involved.
“This recognition of Northern Ireland’s Comprehensive Cancer Services reflects the excellent partnership between Queen’s, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety , Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and the other Trusts providing cancer services in Northern Ireland. The University’s commitment to high quality translational research has led to new techniques for early detection, diagnosis and therapy, and improved outcomes for cancer patients.
“It has already produced life-saving and life-enhancing results, reflecting the drive by Queen’s and Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care services to become a global force in the worldwide fight against cancer.”
Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "I would like to congratulate Queen’s on receiving this prestigious award and I am delighted that patients in Northern Ireland are benefiting from innovative approaches to delivering cancer services. This longstanding partnership between my Department, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and Queen’s illustrates the importance of investing in research and development and the contribution that translational clinical research can make to our health and to our local economy.
“As well as honouring Queen’s, this prize honours all the people, in the University and the Belfast Trust, who have worked so hard over so many years to improve the outcomes for cancer patients through research. Our cancer research network, based in the Comprehensive Cancer Centre, offers cancer patients across Northern Ireland the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of novel treatments. I am personally committed to encouraging innovation, research and development as part of the wider knowledge economy and my Department will continue to invest in cancer research and to encourage the NHS to collaborate with our local universities to deliver future improvements in cancer care."
Jennifer Welsh, Director of Cancer and Specialist Services for Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said: “Our Trust has valued the importance of research in enhancing standards of care and outcomes in the management of patients with cancer. We have worked with our colleagues in Queen's University to make the support of research a key goal of our service development in Oncology. We look forward to continued collaboration with our University colleagues to keep this momentum and achieve greater benefits in the years to come.”
The University-led Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC), based on the United States National Cancer Institute model, is recognised nationally and internationally for its excellence and is seen as a flagship for health research in Northern Ireland. It comprises the Clinical Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, and the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology and Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s.
Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of the University’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said: “The CCC’s strength lies in its multidisciplinary ethos, through teams of scientists and clinicians working together across academic and NHS boundaries on behalf of cancer patients and their families.
“In research terms the CCC has pioneered the concept of developing personalised therapeutic approaches for patients, an approach which has revolutionised cancer care. Queen’s Medical School is honoured to be part of this initiative which has led, and continues to lead, to direct benefits for the cancer patient population in Northern Ireland and around the world. It has partnered with local companies such as Almac, as well as with the international pharmaceutical and biotech industry, in delivering new drugs and diagnostics for cancer treatment.”
Queen’s has won an award in five rounds of the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes. The University was previously honoured for world-class excellence in law, environmental research, palaeoecology and green chemistry. The Queen's Anniversary Prizes will be presented at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace in February.
L-R: Ms Julie McAlinden, Dr Niamh O’Brien and Dr David Waugh
Congratulations to Dr Niamh O’Brien who won the 2011 Roche Prize for her presentation entitled “The ΔNp63 proteins are key allies of BRCA1 in the prevention of basal-like breast cancer”. Niamh is a Post-doctoral Fellow in CCRCB and is supervised by Dr Paul Mullan. Niamh’s paper was also published in the March 2011 edition of Cancer Research Journal.
The Roche Researcher of the Year Award is an event launched by Roche Diagnostics Ireland designed to highlight and support excellence in life science research within the academic centres of Ireland, both in the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Nominated scientists from every university in Ireland are represented at this meeting and each individual presents their scientific paper for independent adjudication by senior academic members from the Irish research community.
Niamh was presented with a medal and a bursary of £400 by Dr David Waugh, CCRCB, and Julie McAlinden, Roche representative, on Friday 28 October 2011 at CCRCB. She was also selected to represent CCRCB and gained second place at the Roche Researcher of the Year Award in Dublin on 8 November 2011 where all nominated individuals from the other Irish Universities present their scientific work and compete against the other finalists.
Scientists, including those from Queen’s University, have discovered that taking regular aspirin halves the risk of developing hereditary cancers. Hereditary cancers are those which develop as a result of a gene fault inherited from a parent. Bowel and womb cancers are the most common forms of hereditary cancers. Fifty thousand people in the UK are diagnosed with bowel and womb cancers every year; ten per cent of these cancers are thought to be hereditary.
The decade-long study, which involved scientists and clinicians from 43 centres in 16 countries and was funded by Cancer Research UK, followed nearly 1,000 patients, in some cases for over ten years. The study found that those who had been taking a regular dose of aspirin had fifty per cent fewer incidences of hereditary cancer compared with those who were not taking aspirin.
The research focused on people with Lynch syndrome which is an inherited genetic disorder that causes cancer by affecting genes responsible for detecting and repairing damage in the DNA. Around fifty per cent of those with Lynch syndrome develop cancer, mainly in the bowel and womb. The study looked at all cancers related to the syndrome, and found that almost thirty per cent of the patients not taking aspirin had developed a cancer compared to around fifteen per cent of those taking the aspirin. Those who had taken aspirin still developed the same number of polyps, which are thought to be precursors of cancer, as those who did not take aspirin but they did not go on to develop cancer. It suggests that aspirin could possibly be causing these cells to destruct before they turn cancerous.
Over 1,000 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer in Northern Ireland last year; 400 of these died from the disease. Ten per cent of bowel cancer cases are hereditary and by taking aspirin regularly the number of those dying from the hereditary form of the disease could be halved.
Professor Patrick Morrison, Honorary Professor, CCRCB, Queen’s University Belfast, who led the Northern Ireland part of the study, said: “The results of this study, which has been ongoing for over a decade, proves that the regular intake of aspirin over a prolonged period halves the risk of developing hereditary cancers. The effects of aspirin in the first five years of the study were not clear but in those who took aspirin for between five and ten years the results were very clear.
“This is a huge breakthrough in terms of cancer prevention. For those who have a history of hereditary cancers in their family, like bowel and womb cancers, this will be welcome news. Not only does it show we can reduce cancer rates and ultimately deaths, it opens up other avenues for further cancer prevention research. We aim now to go forward with another trial to assess the most effective dosage of aspirin for hereditary cancer prevention and to look at the use of aspirin in the general population as a way of reducing the risk of bowel cancer.
“For anyone considering taking aspirin I would recommend discussing this with your GP first as aspirin is known to bring with it a risk of stomach complaints, including ulcers.”
The research has been published in The Lancet Online.
L-R: Dr Michael Moran, Dr Richard Turkington, Dr Sara Busacca, Dr Dean Fennell and Dr Murugan Kalimutho
Staff from CCRCB attended the “Molecular Markers in Cancer” meeting which was held in Brussels by EORTC, ASCO and the US National Cancer Institute on 27-29 October 2011.
Dr Dean Fennell chaired one of the plenary sessions of the meeting and Dr Murugan Kalimutho gave an oral presentation of his work. Other groups presented posters also. Dr Richard Turkington and Dr Michael Moran were also selected to attend the “Diagnostic Development Tutorial: From Hypothesis to Product” which preceded the meeting. Attendees of the tutorial were given focused lectures and seminars of development of predictive and prognostic biomarkers and the sessions were facilitated by leading scientists, clinicians and statisticians from both academia and industry. The Diagnostic Development Tutorial was developed in recognition of the burgeoning field of molecular markers in cancer as well as the growing need for researchers specifically trained in the development and validation of these markers.
As the number of potential molecular markers discovered in cancer increases dramatically, so too does the need for more focused and systematic translational and clinical research that will enable us to fully implement and utilise these biomarkers.
L-R: Dr Paul Mullan, Ms Elisabeth Lamers, Dr Kelly Redmond, Dr Nyree Crawford, Dr Jennifer Quinn, Dr Zenobia D'Costa, Ms Paula Haddock and Mr David Cochrane
L-R: Dr Lisa Jeffers, Dr Gwyneth Hinds, Ms Hazel Carson, Dr Ian Harley and Dr Jennifer Quinn
CCRCB scientists took time out from their research to raise money and awareness in support of Breast Cancer Campaign’s Wear It Pink day on Friday 30 September 2011.
Organised by Breast Cancer Campaign Scientific Fellow, Dr Jennifer Quinn and her campaign funded PhD student Ms Elisabeth Lamers, the event raised an impressive £500 through donations and a cake sale.
Dr Jennifer Quinn said: “Our daily work in the laboratory aims to help women with BRCA1-related breast cancer and we hope that by holding our own Wear It Pink day, even more research can be funded to help find a cure for the disease. Everyone got into the spirit of things and really enjoyed the day.”
Breast Cancer Campaign currently fund over £1million of breast cancer research in CCRCB through Professor Paul Harkin, Professor Kevin Prise, Dr Jennifer Quinn and Dr Paul Mullan.
Wear It Pink is the biggest day of fundraising during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month where supporters are asked to wear an item of pink and donate £2. This year the charity aims to raise £2 million to help fund vital breast cancer research.
The event coincided with the second annual BRCA-Link-NI event, also organised by Dr Jennifer Quinn and Ms Hazel Carson, in the CCRCB, to help women who inherit the faulty BRCA genes that can cause breast cancer. Presenters at this meeting included members of the CCRCB Breast and Ovarian cancer focus group including Dr Jennifer Quinn, Dr Ian Harley, Dr Gywneth Hinds and Dr Lisa Jeffers.
BRCA-NI is now recognised as the main support group for BRCA families in Northern Ireland. There are at least 600 families affected in Northern Ireland. The group also met with Mr Jim Wells, MLA at Stormont on Friday 30 September 2011 and plans are in place to put their campaign for a multidisciplinary clinical approach for supporting BRCA families firmly on the political agenda over the coming months. For further information on BRCA-NI please visit: www.brcani.co.uk.
Dr Mohamed El-Tanani
Congratulations to Dr Mohamed El-Tanani who won the BioTech award, life science section winner in the prestigious 25K Entrepreneurship Awards, organized by NISP Connect, on 29 September 2011.
The OncoTech Project, led by Dr Mohamed El-Tanani, is based around the novel Ran axis Biomarker, a diagnostic assay suitable for both tissue and blood that can identify cancer patients at high risk of metastasis.
Patients with breast and other common cancers die not from the primary tumour but from disseminated disease. If the cancer spreads to other tissues and organs, it decreases the patient's likelihood of survival. Currently there are no diagnostic assays to identify at an early stage the patients with a high risk of metastasis. The Ran axis Biomarker is a diagnostic assay suitable for both tissue and blood that can identify patients with a high risk of developing metastasis. It detects the Ran axis molecules that are uniquely expressed in malignant tumours.
OncoTech has addressed this growing unmet market need by developing a proprietary best in class metastasis risk assay for the growing international clinical and R&D oncology markets. The Ran axis Biomarker multiplex assays are a reliable and specific diagnostic set of tests that have been demonstrated to work for tissue biopsy in over 700 clinical samples.
The £25K Entrepreneurship contest is a commercial educational experience designed to encourage researchers and individuals to act on their talents, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow’s leading commercial opportunities. The programme helps identify, qualify, prepare and present the best knowledge-based ideas and intellectual property from the publicly funded research base in Northern Ireland with the most commercial potential.
Through the £25K Award, applicants experience the unique opportunity to connect and engage with established science and technology corporations, entrepreneurs, service providers and investors who are interested in promising technology. This programme connects the inventors with relevant stakeholders to increase the propensity of commercialisation and turns breakthrough ideas into reality.
Dr Joe O'Sullivan, CCRCB
Scientists at Queen’s have pioneered a new combination treatment for prostate cancer. The treatment, which has been successful in phase one of trials, will now be tested for efficacy in a second phase.
The treatment, aimed at men with an advanced and aggressive form of prostate cancer which has spread to the bone, is the first of its kind to be developed. It combines traditional chemotherapy treatments with two doses of a radioactive chemical which can target areas of the bone affected by prostate cancer.
Aggressive and advanced prostate cancer is responsible for around 10,000 deaths each year in the UK. Chemotherapy is often used to treat the disease; however, benefits of this treatment are usually short-lived. An ability to combine two different types of drugs against prostate cancer may help improve outcomes including survival for these men.
The results of the first phase of the trial, which are published in the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, demonstrate that it is safe and feasible to combine multiple injections of the radioactive chemical (Rhenium-186 HEDP) along with standard chemotherapy in men with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
Dr Joe O’Sullivan, Consultant and Senior Lecturer in Clinical Oncology at the CCRCB, and leader of the study, said: “This is a significant development in the fight against prostate cancer. While this combination treatment still has to go to phase two of trials, to know that this combination is safe and feasible as a treatment is a huge step forward.
“Traditional chemotherapy treatments aren’t always effective in treating aggressive and advanced forms of prostate cancer, so we needed to develop a new treatment which will provide better outcomes for patients with this type of cancer. The combination of chemotherapy with the radioactive chemical Rhenium-186 HEDP has the potential to improve outcomes, including survival, for men with this form of cancer.
“The second phase of the trial has already commenced in The Netherlands and will start in the UK within six months. The trial will involve up to 100 patients from Northern Ireland and the Netherlands and it is hoped that results should be known within two years.”
Belfast scientists are in a race against time to ensure patients in Northern Ireland are the first in the world to have access to a revolutionary life-saving cancer drug.
In a discovery which could save the lives of millions, researchers at the CCRCB, led by Dr Mohamed El-Tanani, have worked out why cancer cells spread. Now they want to create a drug to stop this happening – but first they must find millions of pounds to fund their work. If they are successful in their bid for money, they can begin developing the first-known drug in the world to stop metastasis – the process which causes cancer cells to spread through the body, which leads to death. This will mean cancer patients in Northern Ireland will receive cutting-edge treatment as part of clinical trials to develop the drug.
However, Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences and one of the world’s most influential cancer researchers said life-saving work is being hindered as it is more challenging to secure funding here than in the rest of the UK and this is impacting on patient care.
Professor Johnston said: “Funding for this type of research is fundamental.
“Ultimately, if we don’t get funding for cancer research or for biomedical research then we can’t translate that into something which will benefit patients.
“We don’t have access here to the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), which is a valuable source of funding available to England, Scotland and Wales.
“This was brought in by the Department of Health in England and you have to pay a fee to access it, which is something we don’t do currently.
“Despite the very significant success of people like Dr El-Tanani in Belfast, we are still impeded when compared to other centres around the UK, such as Edinburgh or Cardiff.”
Having established what causes cancer cells to spread, Dr El-Tanani now wants to explore ways to stop this happening.
Dr El-Tanani said: “If we discovered an anti-metastasis drug we could give it to the 40% of the 11 million people who are diagnosed with cancer every year and who go on to develop metastasis.”
Professor Johnston added: “The work led by Dr El-Tanani is a very important discovery. Without further funding, ultimately, the patients will be the losers.”
He said that it is important to ensure high levels of investment in clinical research to attract top scientists to Northern Ireland.
“We have very senior people coming here because of the quality of work being carried out, but that is only possible because of investment. If you don’t attract the right people to work here, the standards of care for the patients will significantly diminish and you also become complacent.”
Professor Johnston also said that there are financial benefits to carrying out research here instead of in other countries, such as the US, where it may be easier for scientists to secure funding. He added: “In terms of the research, we’ll probably bring back five times the original investment as a result of drug development.”
Dr Mohamed El-Tanani
Researchers in Northern Ireland have discovered why deadly cancer cells spread around the body in a breakthrough that could help save lives around the world.
The global fight against cancer has received a significant boost as a result of the research carried out by a team at the CCRCB.
The scientists have discovered a protein – Polyomavirus enhancer activator three, more simply known as Pea3 – causes cancer cells to move through the bloodstream.
They have developed a test to tell when a patient with cancer has high levels of Pea3, which in turn reveals whether the patient is likely to develop secondary tumours.
Dr Mohamed El-Tanani, who headed up the work which was funded by Cancer Research UK, explained: “Every year around the world, eleven million people are diagnosed with cancer and five million of those are in Europe and the US.
“This is a test which could be used in every single person diagnosed with cancer.”
In many cancers, patients do not die as a result of a primary tumour. However, when the cells spread to other parts of the body – a process known as metastasis – survival is less likely.
To date, the research team has established that the test works in patients with breast, oesophageal and lung cancer, but Dr El-Tanani said that they are planning to look at other kinds of cancer.
“We will investigate it on the other common cancers, such as colon cancer, in the near future,” he explained.
There is no drug currently available to stop metastasis from happening. However, doctors can use the test created by Dr El-Tanani to test for secondary tumour potential and then tailor the treatment that will offer the best outcome for the patient.
Dr El-Tanani said: “If we know a breast cancer patient is going to get secondary tumours we could remove the whole breast and ovaries to stop that happening.”
Professor Richard Kennedy, CCRCB Visiting McClay Professor and a consultant oncologist, said although there have been great improvements in breast cancer management – with over eight out of ten women surviving more than five years – there are still patients who will die from the disease spreading throughout the body.
Professor Kennedy said: “The group led by Dr El-Tanani has discovered an important protein that allows breast cancer to travel in the bloodstream in some patients.
“This is an exciting discovery as it may mean we will be able to make drugs which stop this protein from working, allowing us to save more lives in the future.”
The conference, ‘Challenges in Cancer – Answering the Difficult Questions’, was jointly hosted by the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s University and the Society for Translational Oncology (STO). STO is a professional association committed to accelerating the discovery and translation of important new treatments in the field of cancer medicine to the practice of global oncology. The event was held on 7-8 September 2011 at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast. Scientists from around the world discussed the latest advances in cancer therapies as well as discussing the difficulties in the global fight against the disease.
Advances in cancer treatments in Northern Ireland, along with global conversations like these, enable national and international clinical trials into cancers of the lung, breast, colon and leukaemia currently being carried out at CCRCB to take place. This event highlighted Queen’s University’s increasing involvement in international collaborations aimed at improving cancer diagnosis and treatment.
During the event the prestigious Pinedo Prize was awarded to Dr Gabriel Hortobagyi (2011 Pinedo Prize Awardee) - Professor of Medicine and Chairman, Department of Breast Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. Dr Hortobagyi's major area of professional interest is the biology and treatment of breast cancer and he has worked extensively in the development of new agents and strategies for this disease. He is a practicing medical oncologist, a clinical and translational investigator, a research and academic administrator, and an educator.
The McClay Foundation Lecture, initiated to honour the contributions of Sir Allen McClay to medical research at Queen’s University and the wider community, was presented by Dr Richard Goldberg from the University of North Carolina & North Carolina Cancer Hospital. Dr Goldberg’s area of expertise is clinical and translational research in gastrointestinal cancers, particularly colorectal cancer, and the development and integration of novel treatments into the clinic. He has led and remains active in the leadership of Phase I, II, and III clinical trials testing new chemotherapy programs in patients with advanced malignancies and gastrointestinal cancers.
The conference received extremely positive feedback from the external speakers and the delegates.
2nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Translational Oncology / 3rd International Cancer Symposium of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast
September 7-8, 2011
Waterfront Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland
CHALLENGES IN CANCER: ANSWERING THE DIFFICULT QUESTIONS
Join us for presentations and collaborative dialogue about the major challenges in cancer, including usefulness of animal models, drug resistance, patient stratification, adaptive trials and how academia can interact with industry for the betterment of cancer treatment
Attend this leading international conference to:
- Gain insight that will shape the course of clinical oncology practice
- Apply the strategic and scientific information gathered to research methodology/clinical practice
- Create opportunities for face-to-face meetings with leading innovators in cancer research
The Keynote lecture will be given by the esteemed recipient of the 2011 Pinedo Cancer Care Prize, Dr Gabriel Hortobagyi, MD Anderson Cancer Center
The McClay Foundation Lecture will be given by Dr Richard M Goldberg of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
Click on the links below for information on:
For further information please contact: Eileen Gray, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 2761
Professor Richard Kennedy, Visiting McClay Professor, who will lead a £4.4m cancer research collaboration between Almac and Queen’s University, with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s
An investment of £4.4m in a unique academic-business collaboration between pharmaceutical development company Almac and Queen’s University will help develop better tests for diagnosing and treating prostate, ovarian and breast cancer.
The research initiative, based at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s, will be led by Professor Richard Kennedy, one of Almac’s experts in personalised medicine - which tailors specific treatment to each cancer patient.
Invest Northern Ireland and The McClay Foundation, the charitable trust established by the late Sir Allen McClay, are partnering to fund the lab facilities and staff costs. Invest NI has offered the Almac Group and Queen’s £1.5m of support towards the collaboration, which includes part funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The collaboration was announced ahead of CCRCB’s Third International Cancer Symposium (7-8 September 2011), which has attracted leading cancer experts from around the world to focus on how academia can interact with industry to improve cancer treatment.
Professor Kennedy, the newly appointed Visiting McClay Chair of Experimental Cancer Medicine at Queen’s University - a joint appointment with Almac - said the project was an excellent example of how business and academia could work together in the fight against cancer, the leading cause of death in Western civilisations.
He explained: “The research will involve using cutting-edge technology developed by Almac which will allow us to analyse large numbers of patient tumours collected by Queen’s.
“We will develop these tests to help clinicians to better understand prostate, ovarian and breast cancer and prescribe the appropriate treatments tailored to the specific patient.
“We hope this will then improve the chances of cure using chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“Queen's and Almac will also use this information to design new therapies that could improve the chances of response and cure for these cancers in the future.
“More effective treatments will be good news for patients and also for reducing the pressure on the overburdened healthcare system.”
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “Almac remains at the cutting edge of drug development and delivery for specific types of cancer and with Invest NI support, has invested heavily in research projects which have delivered significant economic benefits and advancements in cancer treatment worldwide.
“The company is globally respected for its commitment to innovation and this collaboration project will build upon a successful and longstanding research relationship between Almac and Queen’s University, Belfast. Such academic and industrial linkages are vital to the growth of our economy as they strengthen our knowledge base and enhance Northern Ireland’s reputation as an international research and development hub.”
CCRCB Summer Research Programme 2011
The CCRCB welcomed twenty students from the UK, EU and the USA to our Summer Research Programme 2011 on Monday 4 July 2011.
Following on from last year’s successful Programme, our current cohort of students come from a diverse range of backgrounds including biomedical science, medicine, biochemistry and computational biology. In addition, school pupils who are between years 13 and 14 from Northern Ireland schools have been awarded Nuffield Foundation bursaries to undertake internships in the Centre.
Students have been assigned to projects within the Centre’s focus groups which encompass haematological malignancies; breast and ovarian cancer; gastrointestinal cancer; lung cancer; prostate and bladder cancer; radiation biology and bioinformatics.
While participating in original research as part of a dynamic group, students acquire practical laboratory techniques, gain knowledge of data analysis and interpretation and obtain first-hand experience of an academic research environment. At the end of the Programme, all summer students will present their work to the CCRCB at a poster presentation symposium and will prepare a report for their academic and laboratory supervisors. Participation in summer research enables students to make informed career choices in addition to enhancing their personal and technical skills portfolios.
Funding for this year’s Summer Research Programme has been granted from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, the Wellcome Trust, NI Leukaemia Research Fund and the Nuffield Foundation.
L-R: David Humphreys, Professor Ken Mills and Ian Humphreys
Ulster rugby brothers, David and Ian Humphreys, toured the leukaemia research laboratories on 30 June 2011 to see how the research into the cause and development of new therapies is progressing. The leukaemia research group is based in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) and consists of four principal and two clinical scientists and fifteen younger scientists and post-graduate students training to be the research leaders of the future.
David and Ian came straight from training for the new season to be shown around the CCRCB and the leukaemia research laboratories by Professor Ken Mills and members of the research group. They also met several members of the team who are carrying out research into several different types of leukaemia including Dr Alex Thompson who is heading a research team to understand how adult leukaemia is caused which may lead to new ways of treating this type of leukaemia.
David Humphreys said: “I am amazed and encouraged by the developments in leukaemia research that are being led by the world class laboratories in Belfast which receive some funding from the local Northern Ireland Leukaemia Research Fund (NILRF) charity.”
As part of his visit, he also signed a framed memento of the three number 10’s for Ulster and Ireland, Jack Kyle, Mike Gibson and David Humphreys, which will be part of a NILRF fundraising raffle.
Ian Humphreys said: “The scientists we have met today are very optimistic that their research funded by the NILRF will lead to improved treatments for patients with leukaemia – and that can only be a good thing.”
The NILRF was founded in 1963, has raised over £7 million and is proud that all the money raised in Northern Ireland, stays in Northern Ireland to fund leukaemia research. The NILRF have recently announced a £350,000 research package for the laboratories in Queen’s University Belfast. The package has included training schemes for the scientists and clinicians of the future to ensure that the research programme continues.
Professor Ken Mills, leading the leukaemia research group said: “We are very pleased that the brothers managed to find time to visit our laboratories so we could tell them about our innovative and quality research funded by the NILRF.”
For further information on the activities supported by the NILRF or how you can help the NILRF, please contact Frances Parker for further details on 028 9097 2928 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
L-R: Dr Sara Busacca, Dr Dean Fennell, Dr Niall McTavish, Ms Kathy Delargy and Mr Ben Wilson
Kathy Delargy presented a cheque for £900 to Dr Dean Fennell and members of his research group in CCRCB on Friday 24 June 2011.
Kathy organised a tea party in Mullaghsandall, Larne on the day of the Royal Wedding, 29 April 2011, to raise funds for Mesothelioma Research. Fifty people attended the event and others, who could not attend, sent donations.
Many thanks to Kathy for organising this event to help fund research in CCRCB and to all who helped out on the day and also to those who baked for the event and donated to the tombola.
Mesothelioma is cancer of the lung pleura or the abdominal peritoneum. Research is central to our approach. It is imperative that we learn more about mesothelioma so that we can help current patients as well as patients of the future. What we learn about mesothelioma will also help us understand other types of cancer such as breast, bowel and conventional lung cancer.
Dr Andrew Tutt at CCRCB
The Cancer Research UK Centre Lecture took place in CCRCB on 23 June 2011. The lecture was given by Dr Andrew Tutt, Director of The Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit, King’s College London.
Dr Tutt combines his role of directing a research unit with the position of Consultant Oncologist in the multidisciplinary Breast Unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Dr Tutt qualified in medicine at Bristol University in 1990 and, after postgraduate training in general medicine, trained in clinical oncology at the Royal Marsden Hospital. He then went to work with Professor Alan Ashworth at the Institute of Cancer Research on a Medical Research Council Research Training Fellowship. Here, Dr Tutt worked on functions of the BRCA2 breast cancer predisposition gene and was awarded his PhD in 2002.
Working with Professor Ashworth, Dr Tutt has developed a translational clinical programme which focuses on cancers associated with functional deficiencies in BRCA1 and BRCA2. He is also Chief Investigator for the Cancer Research UK and Breakthrough Breast Cancer BRCA Trial, the Triple-Negative Trial and the ICEBERG studies into a potential new drug. Known as olaparib (a PARP inhibitor), the drug is being developed for women with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
During his visit Dr Tutt met with several of the Principal Investigators in CCRCB and had an opportunity to talk to the Post-doctoral Research Fellows and Postgraduate Research Students about their research programmes.
L-R: Professor Patrick Johnston with Ms Ursula Grimley and Mr Aidan Lagan, Biology teachers from St Columb’s College, Derry
Over fifty AS and A-level Biology teachers from around Northern Ireland had the opportunity to become involved in the latest cancer research techniques at a special event at CCRCB on Friday 10 June 2011.
As well as hearing about the latest developments in gene technology – a key aspect of the AS and A-level Biology syllabus – they were able to watch CCRCB’s researchers at work and, under their expert guidance, got the opportunity to extract DNA from cancer cells.
CCRCB Director, Professor Dennis McCance, said: “Belfast is recognised worldwide for ground-breaking cancer research, and CCRCB is at the centre of that research. Our scientists are developing cutting edge techniques in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, which help alleviate human suffering around the world.
“To ensure that this important work continues, we must continue to attract the best and brightest young scientists from across Northern Ireland and around the world. Today’s A-level students could be at the forefront of tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs, and that is why we work closely with local schools.
“Through our relationship with teachers and students, we show budding young scientists how what they learn in the classroom relates to the ground-breaking research being conducted here at CCRCB. I hope that some of the students from the schools represented here today will pursue their passion for science by choosing to study at Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences and follow a career in cancer research.”
During the day, Professor McCance gave a unique insight into the use of genetics in personalised medicine, and how scientists can identify genetic markers in a patient’s blood to predict how that patient will respond to various treatments. Breakthroughs in this area of research are enabling doctors to plan more personalised treatment for cancer patients.
Teachers also heard how new DNA technology is helping unlock the secrets of the past and present. Professor Patrick Morrison gave a presentation explaining how DNA from the skeleton of a 17th century giant was used to trace its present-day relatives, and how gene technology is used by forensic scientists to solve otherwise ‘perfect’ crimes.
The Information Day event was a great success and received positive feedback from the researchers and teachers who participated in it.
Dr Stephen Farry, Employment and Learning Minister (right) pictured with Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson and DEL funded Cancer Research PhD student Claire McCourt from CCRCB
L-R: Dr Stephen Farry, Employment and Learning Minister pictured with DEL funded Cancer Research PhD students Clare McCourt and Melanie McKechnie from CCRCB
Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, acknowledged the key role Queen’s plays in the knowledge economy during a visit to the University on 8 June 2011.
The Minister was given a tour of the McClay Library, the ‘ANSIN’ research hub in the School of Maths and Physics and the CCRCB by Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Gregson.
Speaking after the visit, the Minister said: “The University has a proud tradition of academic excellence and plays a key role in today’s knowledge economy. I welcome the opportunity to visit Queen’s today and see at first hand how funding provided by my Department continues to support the University in that role.
“Today, I have toured two of Queen’s University’s leading research centres. The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, which was established with over £18m investment from my Department, has become a by-word for cutting edge research which is socially and economically relevant to Northern Ireland and indeed, the world.”
The Minister continued: “I commend the University for its commitment to research collaboration, both with other higher education institutions and with industry. This approach is vital in the current economic climate. By collaborating together, we are pooling research expertise and leveraging additional investment to support projects that will have significant benefit in a wide range of industrial sectors.”
L-R: Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council Sir John Savill, Chair of the Translational Research Strategy Board of the Medical Research Council Professor Patrick Johnston and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Professor Peter Gregson
Congratulations to Professor Patrick Johnston who has been appointed Chair of the Translational Research Group of the Medical Research Council (MRC).
Announcing the appointment at Queen’s University, Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, said: “Professor Johnston’s appointment is extremely important. The role as chair of the Transitional Research Group is key to its success in the UK, which is one of our main objectives. The MRC has to deliver the economic benefits from its investments and getting the right strategy to achieve that is essential. Professor Johnston is very committed to translational research; he has particular expertise in cancer and is clearly someone who has chosen a very receptive translational research environment at Queen’s.”
Commenting on his appointment, Professor Johnston said: “This appointment is not only an honour for me but also for Queen’s University and Northern Ireland. It is also a major recognition of the research work undertaken in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences. It will allow me to further develop translational research across the UK and also direct research at Queen’s into areas that will be more successful.”
Professor Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University, said: “Queen’s University is delighted that Professor Johnston has been honoured through his appointment to this key strategic role within the Medical Research Council. It is testament to his research reputation and his contribution, made through Queen’s, in the area of translational research. Importantly, it places Northern Ireland at the heart of strategy and policy development in the MRC.”
L-R: Mr Bertie Watt (Alan’s father), Mrs Sylvia Watt (Alan’s wife), Dr Tom Flannery (CCRCB), Mrs P Forde (Club Secretary), Mr Richard Montgomery (Club Chairperson) and Mr Colin Barnes (Club Captain)
Our thanks to the members of the Crossdernott Indoor Bowling Club, Donaghmore, Co Tyrone for raising £1,868 for brain cancer research at CCRCB.
Alan Watt, who had been a member of the club since his teenage years and was Captain for the past number of years, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in May of last year and sadly passed away in March 2011. The members of the Bowling Club raised the funds at a Bowling Tournament in April. Dr Tom Flannery, who heads this research area within the Centre, attended an event on 23 May 2011 to give a talk on his research and was presented with a cheque for £1,728 (£140 has been received after the cheque presentation) by Alan’s wife, Mrs Sylvia Watt.
L-R: Professor Dennis McCance, Director of CCRCB; Mrs Sharon Dunwoody, Belfast CR-UK Centre Manager; Dr Emma Hill, Dundee Cancer Centre Manager and Dr David Meek from Dundee University, co-organiser of the symposium
Cancer experts from leading centres in Dundee and Belfast gathered in Dundee recently to discuss the latest advances in research and foster future collaborations.
Sixteen researchers from CCRCB attended the Dundee-Belfast Cancer Centres’ Joint Symposium, which took place on 12-13 May 2011 at the University of Dundee.
Dundee and Belfast are both Cancer Research UK Centres, drawing together world class research and medical expertise to provide the best possible results for cancer patients nationwide. Themes of the symposium included breast cancer, colorectal cancer, skin cancer and responses to radiation.
Professor Dennis McCance, Director of CCRCB, said: “There are strong common themes across the two Centres with complementary rather than overlapping expertise and so it makes for an ideal collaboration on breast and bowel cancers and responses to radiation.”
Belfast Cancer Research UK Centre is helping to set the pace for national and international progress in bowel, breast and oesophageal cancer and radiation biology. The Centre brings together researchers and support from Queen’s University Belfast, the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust, the HSCNI Research & Development Division of the Public Health Agency and Cancer Research UK.
L-R: Chair: J. Malicki (PL), Conor McGarry, Professor Jack Fowler and Chair: G. Kovács (DE)
Congratulations to Conor McGarry who received the 2011 ESTRO - Jack Fowler University of Wisconsin Award at the ESTRO Anniversary Congress held in London on 8-12 May 2011.
Conor McGarry’s work, for which the Jack Fowler Award was received, involved creation and delivery of clinically relevant radiotherapy treatment plans to cell culture models within a specially fabricated phantom. Each treatment plan was delivered to human prostate cancer cells and normal primary fibroblast cells. Different clinical radiotherapy protocols varying in the pattern of radiation delivery and the time of delivery were compared but overall giving the same uniform dose. The results confirm that effects due to delivery time are most prevalent in more radiosensitive cells and that cell survival data generated from uniform beam deliveries may not always be accurate in predicting response to more complex clinical radiotherapy delivery techniques. The work is part of ongoing studies to develop new biologically relevant models for the delivery of advanced radiotherapies.
Conor McGarry was awarded a doctoral research fellowship from the Health and Social Care Research & Development Division of the Public Health Agency in 2009 for a project entitled ‘Studies of the biological implications of different intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) planning and delivery techniques’. The work is supervised by Professor Kevin Prise and Dr Alan Hounsell and is a joint collaboration between the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and the CCRCB, Queen’s University Belfast.
CCRCB Researcher Alexandra Henry (right) with pupils at the CCRCB Schools Workshop
Twenty three students from eight schools across Belfast took part in a practical workshop in the CCRCB on Saturday 9 April 2011.
The students worked alongside researchers in the labs for the day and gained a valuable insight into some of the procedures and topics from their AS level Biology syllabus. The Schools Workshop was a great success and all the students who attended said they would now consider a career in cancer research.
For free online teaching resources from Cancer Research UK, please visit: http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/youthandschools/
The Northern Ireland Cancer Trials Centre (NICTC), formerly known as the Northern Ireland Cancer Clinical Trials Unit, launched its new name, logo and website on 1 April 2011.
NICTC, the co-ordinating centre for cancer clinical trials in Northern Ireland, based at Belfast City Hospital, is a joint project between Queen’s University and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. The work of the Centre is funded by the Health and Social Care R&D Division of the NI Public Health Agency and by the charities Cancer Research UK and the Friends of the Cancer Centre.
Professor Bernie Hannigan, Director of HSC R&D, welcomed the launch saying: “Cancer clinical trials are essential for continued progress towards even more effective treatments and care for patients with cancer. We are very pleased to continue supporting this important activity and we applaud the very significant achievements being made by clinicians and researchers based in Northern Ireland.”
Dr Richard Wilson, the Centre’s Clinical Director said: “Clinical trials allow the development of personalized medicine specifically targeted to each individual and their cancer. Last year over 1,100 patients in Northern Ireland took part in our clinical trials or other high quality cancer research studies. Our patients with cancer who take part in clinical trials are helping us to develop better and safer treatments. They also help us through translational research to identify who is most likely to benefit from a given therapy, and who is most at risk of side effects.”
Cancer Research UK Lead Research Nurse Anne Croudass said: “We fund the highest quality research into the treatment causes and prevention of cancer. It is through supporting scientists, doctors and nurses, such as those here in Northern Ireland, that we continue to improve outcomes for cancer patients.”
The NICTC is also launching a strategy to increase personal and public involvement in cancer research in Northern Ireland. Anyone living with or beyond cancer, or relatives or carers of someone with cancer may want to consider getting involved in helping to influence cancer research. If you are in one of these groups and interested in finding out more, you are invited to get in touch with NICTC. You can find details at the website, or by contacting Ruth Boyd, Cancer Research UK Senior Nurse at the NICTC, Tel: (028) 9026 3903 or e-mail: email@example.com
Information about current clinical trials in Northern Ireland is available on the website at: www.qub.ac.uk/nictc
As part of the University’s drive to establish and consolidate international links and to generate links around cancer research, researchers from CCRCB and the School of Pharmacy travelled to Vanderbilt University, Nashville to participate in a two day internationalisation event on 17-18 March 2011.
The event had excellent scientific presentations given by Principal Investigators from both Universities. One of the first talks of the day was given by Dr Eva Harth, Vanderbilt School of Chemistry, about the use of novel drug delivery systems – Nanosponges. These synthetic sponges can be made to exact and reproducible sizes by how the chemistry is conducted. This was reported to be very important for transport through the body and into the blood stream. The Nanosponges use drugs via a non-covalent manner and are delivered to irradiated cells via a known peptide targeting sequence on the outside of the sponge. This allows for cell specific drug delivery with no impact upon non-irradiate cells.
Dr Tom Yankeelov gave some insight into research conducted within the Vanderbilt Imaging Institute (VUIIS) and the use of MRI in breast cancer screening. This novel screening technology, which measures the mobility of water molecules within breast tissue, is being used to accurate measure the 3D topography of tumours. Dr Yankeelov also provided a tour of the state of the art Imaging Institute which was very impressive. In one of the VUIIS labs they have coupled together CT with SPECT and/ or PET imaging which can be used with various animal models.
Dr Karen McCloskey met with Dr Craig Lindsley, head of CNS drug discovery, to talk about the use of anti-muscarinics as therapies for an over-active bladder. As part of the NIH driven MLPCN tool compound discovery network, Vanderbilt have developed the highly selective compounds that can be used for the first time to truly tease apart the biology of bladder physiology. All of these compounds are provided free of charge to researchers who request them. For more details on what kind of probe compounds and biological targets are available, please visit the website: http://mli.nih.gov/mli/mlp-probes/
Presentations were also given by Dr Marie Migaud (School of Pharmacy), Dr Karen McCloskey, Dr Rich Williams, Dr David Waugh and Professor Dennis McCance (CCRCB) and were all positively received and generated a lot of interest in the research carried out at Queen’s University.
Niamh Perry (left) with the NILRF Research Team
The leukaemia research laboratory, part supported by the Northern Ireland Leukaemia Research Fund (NILRF), had a visit from Niamh Perry from Bangor who appeared on the BBC talent show “I’d Do Anything”, and has just finished a fourteen month appearance in the principal role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical ‘Love Never Dies’. Niamh’s uncle died from acute myeloid leukaemia and she wanted to support the NILRF, find out more about the disease and meet the scientists researching into new therapies for AML.
During her visit, Niamh also launched the NILRF’s campaign to encourage participants in the Belfast Marathon to adopt the NILRF as their charity. A team from the haematological malignancies research group on the CCRCB Ground Floor are entering the team relay event in the Belfast Marathon on 3 May – all support is welcome! Niamh also talked to students and scientists in the leukaemia research group before visiting the Belfast Children’s Hospital where she met several children with cancer and leukaemia.
We would like to thank Niamh for her support to the NILRF.
Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez
Congratulations to Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez who has been appointed Professor of Molecular Pathology.
Over the last twenty-five years, Professor Salto-Tellez’s medical and research pursuits have taken him from his native Spain to different parts of the world. Professor Salto- Tellez started his medical education at the Universities of Oviedo (Spain), Aachen (Germany) and Leiden (Netherlands), and he went on to train as a histopathologist in the UK, and a molecular pathologist in UPENN. For the last ten years, he was an Associate Professor of Pathology, consultant pathologist and research scientist at the National University of Singapore and its hospital. Professor Salto-Tellez said: “I am now delighted to come to Belfast to be part of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology and Queen’s University and I am proud to be joining the scientific and the pathology communities of Northern Ireland.”
Since 2001, Professor Salto-Tellez’s main activity in science and diagnostics has been the integration of the phenotypic and genotypic dimensions of disease, primarily cancer. To have a fuller understanding of disease pathology, he believed that one had to go beyond its conventional, morphological aspects, actively involving molecular biology in translational research and tissue diagnostics. Professor Salto-Tellez said: “I look forward to working on this morpho-molecular integration in all aspects of science, diagnostics and therapeutics here in Belfast. I hope that this approach will contribute to advancing research in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology and Queen’s University Belfast, and that it helps alleviate the pain of cancer sufferers.”
The IACR Satellite Meeting ‘Cancer Therapeutics: Small Molecule and Biology Strategies in the Molecular-Targeted Era’ was held in Cork on 2 March. The speakers represented both industry and academia and came not only from across Ireland and the UK but across the Pond as well.
All the talks focused around cancer drug discovery from why some leading compounds failed in the clinic to the novel strategies created in generating future drugs. Dr Andrew Thomas from AstraZeneca kicked off the meeting by highlighting the challenges now facing drug discovery in the fight against cancer and pointed out that new approaches were required to answer this failing. One novel strategy that is currently underway at the Broad Institute in Boston revolves around the development of compounds libraries that incorporate more novel chemical space for screening with increased focus around moving away from ‘flatland-sp2 hybridised molecules’. This drive to move away from flat drug like molecules to novel sp3- chiral compounds was also a topic of discussion for one of Ireland’s upcoming investigators Dr Florence McCarthy of University College Cork.
In an era in which small molecular inhibitor approaches are failing to identify highly selective anti-cancer therapies, delegates were treated to two talks which focused around the development and use of novel antibodies. Dr Gillian Murphy (Cambridge) and Dr Chris Scott (Queen’s University) described the use of highly selective antibody therapies in targeting ADAM-17 and Capthespin S that display encouraging in-vivo results. Dr Mullooly of St. Vincent’s University also pointed out that the development of selective inhibitors for ADAM-17 would be crucial when targeting triple negative breast cancer, as well as other poor prognosis cancers, such as colorectal disease.
The keynote speaker for the meeting was Dr Steve Fesik from Vanderbilt University. Dr Fesik joined Vanderbilt from Abbott Laboratories where he pioneered novel approaches to discover new chemical entities for hit to lead discovery – fragment based drug screening. This approach has been key in developing drugs for what many call the ‘un-druggable targets’ – protein-protein interactions. One of the key observations made was that compounds developed in this area exceed the normal guidelines for orally bio-available drugs. Dr Fesik recently received a prestigious award to start addressing and challenging well established guidelines on what makes a drug clinically relevant. His talk was echoed in part in a series of presentations during the day and none more so than by Dr Martin Drysdale of the Beatson Institute in Glasgow.
Dr Rich Williams would like to thank the organisers and sponsors of this meeting and congratulate them on an extremely successful meeting.
L-R: Gaurang Patel, Helen Barnes and Dr Kienan Savage
Congratulations to Dr Kienan Savage and Gaurang Patel both of whom have received recognition for their public engagement work in 2010. Dr Savage was nominated by the Belfast Media Group for one of its “Top 40 under 40” awards for his work chairing the Belfast Relay for Life for Cancer Research UK which raised over £12,000 for the charity.
Gaurang Patel was one of ten researchers who took part in several engagement activities for CR-UK during the year and in a draw at the researchers’ annual thank you breakfast, he received a voucher for a meal for two, compliments of Villa Italia.
Cancer Research UK now supports more than fifty researchers within CCRCB and the Northern Ireland Cancer Trials Centre, most of whom regularly get involved in events to raise awareness of the Belfast Cancer Research UK Centre and its work locally. A big thank you is due to everyone who gets involved, as public engagement is vital to build loyalty and increase income for CR-UK in Northern Ireland.
Professor Kevin Prise (centre) with the Mitchell Scholars
CCRCB hosted a visit from students participating in the Mitchell Scholarship Programme as part of the US-Ireland Alliance on 25 February 2011.
The US-Ireland Alliance is a proactive, non-partisan, non-profit organisation dedicated to consolidating existing relations between the United States and Ireland, North and South, and building that relationship for the future. The US-Ireland Alliance has established the George J. Mitchell Scholars Program to educate future American leaders about the island of Ireland and to provide tomorrow’s leaders with an understanding about, an interest in, and an affinity with, the island from which thirty-eight million Americans claim descent. Approximately twelve scholarships are awarded each year. Every year twelve highly-qualified students are selected to complete a degree at an Irish institution. Queen’s University is hosting one Mitchell Scholar this year and he is working toward an MA in Violence, Terrorism and Security.
Senator Mitchell was previously Chancellor of the University and officially opened the new CCRCB building in November 2007. The visiting scholars were introduced to the Centre by CCRCB Deputy Director, Professor Kevin Prise and then given a tour of the Second and Third Floors by Karl Butterworth and Kirsty McLaughlin.
Helen Barnes and CCRCB Researchers with The Big Fish at the Lagan Weir
The Tesco and Cancer Research UK Race for Life events for 2011 have been launched across Northern Ireland. Race for Life is a women only 5k event celebrating those who have survived cancer and remembering those who have died.
Researchers from CCRCB and CR-UK LEAD Manager, Helen Barnes took part in a photo shoot with Alison Fleming from UTV to launch Cancer Research UK’s 2011 local Race for Life events. To celebrate the launch various Belfast landmarks were turned pink, including the Big Fish at the Lagan Weir and the Dome in Victoria Square, from 14-20 February.
This year there will be two events at Stormont (morning and afternoon) on Sunday 29 May and a further event at the University of Ulster in Coleraine on Sunday 12 June. To enter this year’s events locally or to volunteer, go to www.raceforlife.org
The second international conference in Quantitative Biology and Bioinformatics for Modern Medicine was held on 7-8 February 2011. The meeting was hosted by University College Dublin at the Conway Institute and organised by Professor Peter Hamilton and Dr Frank Emmert-Streib from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology and Professor Des Higgins from the Conway Institute. It was the second event of its kind following last year’s conference hosted in 2010 by Queen’s University Belfast.
The meeting was supported by the Department for Learning and Employment (DEL) through its “Strengthening the all-Island Research Base” initiative and the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology in order to gather leading scientists from distinguished national and international research institutes to communicate new ideas and build collaborative networks.
Visitors from all over the world travelled to Dublin for the conference including scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), Harvard University (USA), Cornell University (USA), Aarhus University (Denmark) and Institut Curie, (France). After an opening address by Professor Peter Hamilton, the invited speakers presented exciting novel findings in Computational Biology, Biostatistics and Network Biology and their relevance for the current challenges being faced in modern medicine and specifically in cancer research. Due to enormous technological progress during the last decade allowing the measurement of molecular and cellular entities with astonishing detail, the interpretation of data from such experiments is complex and requires the development and application of sophisticated statistical, computational and mathematical methods. The Cancer Bioinformatics Group at Queen’s University is playing a leading role in this research and in the education of a new generation of scientists who need to be equipped for the challenges of the data revolution in Biology.
Due to the great success of the past two conferences, a third international conference in Quantitative Biology and Bioinformatics for Modern Medicine is anticipated to take place in Belfast in September 2012.
The CCRCB Summer Research Programme provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in laboratory-based research during the summer months. Each participant will be assigned to a research project in the laboratory of a Principal Investigator and will work as part of an enthusiastic research team comprising postdoctoral fellows, research assistants, PhD students and technicians. The projects will run for an 8-week period between June and September 2011 and students will work in the laboratory from Monday to Friday on a full-time basis.
Students currently enrolled for Biomedical Sciences, Medicine, Dentistry or a related discipline who have completed at least one year of full-time study are eligible to apply. Several funded studentships are available; these typically pay a student stipend of £150 per week. All successful applicants will automatically be considered for a studentship.
The application process is now open. Please submit a current CV including your full academic profile (or transcript), a cover letter stating your reasons for applying to the Programme and the names and contact details of 2 referees. Please email your application to firstname.lastname@example.org for the attention of Dr Karen McCloskey, Programme Coordinator, by 1 February 2011.
L-R: Professor Peter Hamilton, Professor Tony Wilson and Mr Stewart Church
The Royal Microscopical Society Vice-President’s Fund 2010 prize was awarded to Stewart Church and Professor Peter Hamilton from Queen’s University by Professor Tony Wilson, RMS President, on 27 January 2011 for their project entitled: “CancerScapes: the complexity and richness of cancer microscopy”. The RMS Vice-President’s Fund supports worthy projects using microscopy to contribute to the public understanding of science or benefit the developing world. This is the first time that the RMS Vice-President’s Prize has been awarded to Northern Ireland.
Their project aims to establish a unique CancerScape web portal, to illustrate the visual complexity of cancer tissues and cells, using high resolution web-microscopy. Images will be selected, annotated and described by experienced diagnostic pathologists in lay-mans terms. In addition, images will be described through poetry or prose provided by local English A Level students from schools in Northern Ireland.
A dedicated website will be developed to professionally present this material and PathXL will be used to manage and deliver high quality microscopy images to the general public using virtual microscopy. This project will provide a unique insight into the beauty of microscopy images but also their importance for cancer diagnostics and in so doing blur the lines between art and science.
The EU-FP7 funded consortium, INComb, had their annual meeting in Belfast on 19-21 January 2011. INComb is the first EU funded consortium in the field of Urology and has as its research focus, “Combating Incontinence from Basic Science to Clinical Practice”.
The Belfast meeting, hosted by Dr Karen McCloskey from CCRCB comprised over twenty participants from ten partners including Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and Pfizer UK. INComb provides substantial funding to the McCloskey laboratory in CCRCB (€909,000) who currently work on models of dysfunctional bladder including post-radiation damage.
Dr Shozeb Haider
Congratulations to Dr Shozeb Haider who has been appointed CCRCB Senior Lecturer in Drug Discovery.
Dr Haider joined CCRCB in January 2011. He originally completed his BSc and MSc in Biochemistry from Aligarh University, India before moving to the UK to join the MRes programme in Bioinformatics at Leeds University. He followed this with a PhD in Molecular Biophysics at the Institute of Cancer Research, London studying the structure and dynamics of guanine quadruplexes. Dr Haider was able to solve the first crystal structure of a guanine quadruplex in complex with an anti-cancer drug.
Dr Haider then moved as a postdoc to Oxford University studying the structural mechanism of KATP K+ ion channels. In absence of any crystal structures, he was able to construct models that explained the structure-function relationship in detail. For this work he was invited to the prestigious “Emerging scientists of the next decade” symposium organised by Roche pharmaceuticals.
Prior to joining CCRCB, he held the position of CR-UK Senior Research Fellow at the London School of Pharmacy working on anti-cancer target validation using computational methodologies. Recently he has also proposed a mechanism of the open and closed states of a Cytochrome P450 involved in prostate cancer.
Apart from running his projects, Dr Haider will be providing collaborative support in computational chemistry to colleagues in CCRCB. He has also initiated collaboration with Professor Zholos at the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science. Dr Haider said: “I am absolutely delighted to begin my career at CCRCB and look forward to working with eminent names in the field of cancer research here at the Centre.”
Dr Haider is a member of the Royal Society for Chemistry and is also an accredited Chartered Chemist. He is currently a member of the management committee of Molecular Modelling and Graphics Society, Royal Society for Chemistry (Molecular Modelling Group) and pan-European Cooperation in Science and Technology MP0802 programme. Dr Haider is also a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and holds interests in Tibetian and Islamic art and architecture.
L-R: Professor Peter Hamilton (CCRCB and IT Lead for NI Biobank), Dr Jacqueline James (Scientific Director NI Biobank), Professor Bernadette Hannigan (Director of HSC R&D Division and Chief Scientific Advisor of DHSSPSNI), Professor Dennis McCance (Director CCRCB) and Kate Williamson (CCRCB)
L-R: Mr Colin Fox (Senior data Manager NI Cancer Registry), Mr Stuart Harvey (CEO, i-Path Diagnostics Ltd), Mrs Cathy Rooney (Fund Raising Co-ordinator, Friends of the Cancer Centre), Miss Eileen Regan (i-Path Diagnostics Ltd), Professor Peter Hamilton (CCRCB and IT Lead for NI Biobank)
A collaboration between Queen’s University Belfast, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT) and the University of Ulster will create a unique Biobank of clinical samples to support biomedical research within academia and industry across Northern Ireland.
Phase one of the NI Biobank, led by CCRCB researchers Dr Jacqueline James and Professor Peter Hamilton, will establish a collection of high quality tumour tissues and bloods from consented patients being treated for cancer in the Belfast Trust. This bank of tumour samples will complement both the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) and the CR-UK Centre initiatives within CCRCB and will promote translational cancer research across the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences. Collectively over £1.9M has been secured to develop the infrastructure necessary for tumour banking to be successful. The tumour samples held in the NI Biobank will be surplus to clinical need and will be redirected to the CCRCB by BHSCT pathologists. Tissue and bloods will be accrued from individuals with GI, Breast, Lung, Head and Neck, Gynaecological and Genitourinary malignancies; the bank will also support the storage of samples retained during trials undertaken in the NI Cancer Clinical Trials Centre and Network.
The NI Biobank will be supported by a secure information management system which will be accessible to data managers in the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry in order to link the tumour samples anonymously with robust clinical and pathological information. Local, national and international guidelines for the collection, storage and release of samples and data will be followed and the NI Biobank will also promote sharing of information with other Biobanks through its membership of the UK Confederation of Cancer Biobanks. A collection of readily accessible, high quality, well annotated tumour samples will be essential in the discovery of new biomarkers for cancer prognosis, prediction and indicators of clinical response and will support the approaches in stratified medicine being promoted across the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences.
Funding for phase one of the NI Biobank is a syndicate of three partners. Cancer Research–UK has provided funds as part of the Belfast CR-UK Cancer Centre initiative to enhance the research infrastructure within the BHSCT Tissue Pathology department facilitating sample accrual and molecular typing (£430,263). The Health and Social Care Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency (HSC R&D Division) has awarded a five year grant for £1,495,414 which will support day to day running costs and Biobank staff (including an administrator, two research nurses and two medical laboratory assistants in the first instance). The Friends of the Cancer Centre (FOCC) have awarded two grants, one for £58,163 to create an information management system and the other £12,913 for the purchase of a MacroPath Imaging System. The local digital pathology company i-Path Diagnostics have been awarded the tender by Queen’s to create and support the IT system for the Biobank.
Mrs Priscilla Clark has been appointed the Administrator for the NI Biobank tumour collection. Priscilla will have responsibility for operational activities of the bank ensuring strategies, policies and development plans are implemented. A key role for the bank administrator will be to liaise with various stakeholders, the University, the BHSCT, HSC R&D Division, CR-UK and the FOCC. Priscilla will also co-ordinate access to the bank samples and facilitate distribution and tracking of samples. Priscilla will work closely with closely with Mrs Sharon Dunwoody, the CR-UK Centre Administrator, the data managers in the NI Cancer Registry and Dr Stephen McQuaid, BHSCT Tissue Pathology who will lead on issues relating to Quality assurance, CPA and HTA regulation. Priscilla’s previous experience in Pathology gives her great insight into the practices and procedures relevant to both the University and the National Health Service which will be a tremendous asset in getting the NI Biobank established.
Dr Frank McCormick
The Mitchell Lecture was delivered on Thursday 18 November in CCRCB by Dr Frank McCormick. Dr McCormick is the Director of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Associate Dean of the UCSF School of Medicine. Dr McCormick's current research interests centre on the fundamental differences between normal cells and cancer cells that can allow the development of novel therapeutic strategies.
During his visit Dr McCormick met with a number of the Principal Investigators in CCRCB, including the Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences and had an opportunity to talk to the Post-doctoral Research Fellows and Postgraduate students about their ongoing research.
Congratulations to Marie Breen, CCRCB, who won the 2010 Roche Prize for her presentation entitled “EpoR over-expression in TEL-AML1 positive ALL: Critical Roles for DNA Methylation, GATA-2 or microRNAs?”. Marie is a final year PhD student supervised by Professors Ken Mills and Terry Lappin.
The Roche Researcher of the Year Award is an event launched by Roche Diagnostics Ireland designed to highlight and support excellence in life science research within the academic centres of Ireland, both in the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Nominated scientists from every university in Ireland are represented at this meeting and each individual presents their scientific paper for independent adjudication by senior academic members from the Irish research community.
Marie was presented with a medal and a busary of £400 by Julie McAlinden, Roche representative, on Friday 12 November at CCRCB. She was also selected to represent CCRCB at the Roche Research of the Year Award at The Westbury Hotel, Dublin on 25 November.
CCRCB Director, Professor Dennis McCance said: “This is an important prize as it showcases the work of many Centres within the island of Ireland and we wish Marie well in the final competition.”
CCN Workshop Delegates
The sixth International CCN Workshop was held at the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle from 20–24 October 2010. The meeting was hosted by Dr Sandra Irvine and attracted sixty-six delegates from fifteen different countries including Japan, Australia, Canada and America.
The CCN family was named a decade ago using the initial letter of the first three family members: CYR 61 (cysteine rich protein), CTGF (connective tissue growth factor) and NOV (nephroblastoma overexpressed). There are now six CCN family members which play key roles in development, inflammation and cancer. This workshop allows scientists who normally work in different disciplines to come together and exchange ideas so that progress in one field can be rapidly translated into another. Dr Rick Kendall of Amgen gave the keynote address on Angiogenesis and described some exciting new agents under development by the company.
In addition to all the hard work, delegates were given a tour of Stormont Buildings with a gala dinner as guests of Margaret Richie, MLA and finished the conference with a dinner and traditional Irish music – a sure way to forge future collaborations!
Professor Karl Hale, member of CCRCB, has been awarded a prestigious Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Invitation Research Fellowship for the year 2010-2011.
For futher details please click here.
Professor Kevin Prise
Professor Prise joined CCRCB in April 2007 as Chair of Radiation Biology. He originally graduated from the University of Aberdeen with an Honours degree in Biochemistry and followed this with a PhD in Biochemistry/Cell Biology studying the mechanisms of action of the chemotherapeutic agents methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil. Since then he has done extensive studies on the mechanisms of action of ionising radiations in a range of model DNA, cell and tissue systems. He has worked at the internationally renowned Gray Cancer Institute in Northwood, Northwest London where he had been Head of the Cell and Molecular Radiation Biology Group. Along with Dr Giuseppe Schettino he has developed novel approaches for targeting a range of different types of radiation to cellular and subcellular targets. These approaches have challenged the accepted models for radiation effects at the cellular and subcellular levels and opened up the possibility of new approaches and targets for therapy. They also impact on our understanding of the risks associated with low dose exposures. Since joining CCRCB his group has been working closely with Dr Joe O’Sullivan and Dr Alan Hounsell on translational projects in the area of advanced radiotherapies.
Professor Prise said: “It was a tremendous honour to be asked to serve as Deputy Director and a significant challenge to continue the exemplary service given by Professor Lappin. However, his role of supporting the Director, was very much as part of the collegiate team of Division Heads and Directorate working together to meet the challenges and opportunities for CCRCB going forward.”
Professor Prise will also be continuing with his role as Associate Director for Postdoctoral Studies within the Centre.
L-R: Dr Jack Kyle with Professor Ken Mills
Rugby legend Dr Jack Kyle (formerly of Ulster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions) visited CCRCB on 24 August 2010. Dr Kyle toured the laboratory facilities and met with a number of scientists working in the area of leukaemia research.
As part of his visit Dr Kyle signed a 2010-2011 season Ulster Rugby shirt, which was raffled in aid of the Northern Ireland Leukaemia Research Fund. The total amount raised was £377. We would like to thank Dr Kyle for his support to the NILRF.
Summer Research Students with Programme Co-ordinator Dr Karen McCloskey (front row, second right)
The CCRCB launched its first Summer Research Programme this year and there are currently 16 students working in the Centre for the summer months. While students have previously undertaken summer research in CCRCB, the establishment of the Summer Research Programme has enabled the Centre to recruit students locally, nationally and also from Europe and the USA. This year’s cohort of students come from a diverse array of backgrounds and includes those studying biomedical science, medicine, biochemistry and other areas relevant to the life sciences. In addition, school pupils who are between years 13 and 14 from Northern Ireland schools have been awarded Nuffield Foundation bursaries to undertake internships in the Centre.
Students are assigned to projects within the Centre’s focus groups which encompass haematological malignancies; breast cancer; gastrointestinal cancer; lung cancer; prostate and bladder cancer; radiation biology and bioinformatics. While taking part in original research as part of a dynamic group, students acquire practical laboratory techniques, gain knowledge of data analysis and interpretation and obtain first-hand experience of working in an academic research environment. At the end of the programme, all summer students will present their work to the CCRCB and prepare a report for their academic and laboratory supervisors. Participation in summer research will enable students to make informed career choices in addition to enhancing their personal skills portfolios.
Funding for this year’s Summer Research Programme has been granted from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, the Wellcome Trust, NI Leukaemia Research Fund and the Nuffield Foundation.
Michelle Napier (centre, daughter of Sandra Campbell and BBC News Reader) presenting a cheque for £3,536 to Dr Jennifer Quinn and Dr Gareth Irwin from the Breast Cancer research group, CCRCB
The Sandra Campbell Ladies Open Golf competition in aid of Breast Cancer research has been taking place every June in Dungannon Golf Club since 1996. It is very well supported and around 100 lady golfers play each year from Dungannon Golf Club and several clubs across Northern Ireland.
The competition was started by Sandra Campbell who was a past Lady Captain of the golf club in 1995. Sandra was a PE teacher by profession and loved her golf. She was a very energetic and bubbly person who was a natural when it came to organising events and getting people involved. Since her sad death in 2005, her husband and children have carried on the competition. Much of the day is sponsored by local businesses and an auction and raffle are held in the evening to raise money. In particular, Curleys, The Oak Centre in Dungannon, have sponsored the gold prizes for the competition for the last 15 years.
Dr Jennifer Quinn and Dr Gareth Irwin from CCRCB attended this year’s event on 22 June and spoke about their research in breast cancer. Thankfully over the years the competition has raised thousands of pounds in aid of Breast Cancer research. This year £3,536 was raised. We would like to thank the Campbell family for their commitment in organising this annual event to support the Breast Cancer research work within the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology.
Northern Ireland’s politicians have praised the groundbreaking work of local researchers and clinicians after visiting the newly opened Belfast Cancer Research UK Centre. Jim Wells MLA, Chair of the Health Committee said: “We are delighted to see the world class research being carried out here in Belfast. The work taking place here will bring improved treatments for cancer to the people of Northern Ireland.”
Committee members visited facilities at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology before holding an evidence session on the Sunbeds Bill. Professor Dennis McCance, Director of CCRCB, said: “We were able to demonstrate to the Health Committee how this Centre will bolster our efforts to bring together a variety of researchers and clinicians to collaborate and work together to improve the lives of cancer patients across Northern Ireland. By building closer links between scientists and doctors we want to increase the pace of research, leading to improved treatments for patients. We should rightly be proud of the part we're playing in moving the latest scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the patient's bedside.”
The Belfast Cancer Research UK Centre will help set the pace for national and international progress in cancer of the bowel, oesophagus and breast. It will also concentrate on pioneering the latest techniques in radiotherapy, improving cancer diagnosis and developing new, more effective drugs. The Centre aims to be a world leader in developing treatments tailored to individual cancer patients based on understanding the biology of the disease and how that varies among patients.
Professor Paddy Johnston, Chair of the Cancer Research UK Centre Governance Board and Head of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said: “The Cancer Research UK Centre establishes Belfast as one of the key cancer research sites both nationally and internationally, but most importantly it will substantially help us to translate scientific breakthroughs into improved cancer patient care. We need our politicians to support this work to ensure that we can continue to undertake such high quality research in Belfast.”
Belfast was one of the first Cancer Research UK Centres to be established and local engagement is one of the key elements of the Centre. Researchers from the Belfast CR-UK Centre regularly attend events across Northern Ireland to say thank you to supporters and to raise awareness of the research happening in Belfast. Recently, researchers from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology and research nurses from the NI Cancer Clinical Trials Unit took part in a ‘thank you’ film that was produced to be shown at Cancer Research UK Race for Life Events across the United Kingdom.
To view the Researchers 'Thank You' film please click here.
CR-UK Researcher Dr Kienan Savage with two of the pupils who attended the event
The event gave AS-level students the chance to gain practical experience and learn more about a career in science from experienced world-class research scientists.
Director of the Centre, Professor Dennis McCance, explained: “The aim of the event is to encourage students to consider a career in cancer research. They will have the opportunity to experience cutting edge technology first hand and will take part in practical sessions.”
Twenty-five students from nine schools in and around Belfast attended the event which is part of the Centre’s ongoing commitment to engage the public in its work and further science education.
The researchers based at the Centre work closely with Cancer Research UK and other partners, carrying out research into cancer and taking research all the way from the laboratory to the patient’s bedside.
Part of the strategy for the Belfast Cancer Research UK Centre is to train and support the research workforce of the future and encourage the best possible students to pursue a career in medical research.
The cross-faculty, interdisciplinary research centre has over 220 clinical and basic researchers from across the world. These researchers are developing new avenues for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.To view the QTV feature for this event click here.
The first international conference in Quantitative Biology and Bioinformatics for Modern Medicine was held from 1-2 March 2010. The meeting was hosted by Queen’s University at the Great Hall and organised by Dr Frank Emmert-Streib and Professor Peter Hamilton from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB).
The meeting was supported by the Department for Learning and Employment (DEL), as part of an initiative to strengthen the all-island research base and the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB). The aim of the event was to gather leading scientists from distinguished national and international research institutes in Belfast to discuss recent advances in bioinformatics, develop new ideas and build partnerships. Visitors from all over the world travelled to Belfast for this conference including scientists from the University of Cambridge (UK), Harvard University (USA) and University College Dublin (Ireland).
After an opening address by CCRCB’s Director Professor Dennis McCance the invited speakers presented exciting novel findings in Computational Biology, Biostatistics and Network Biology and their relevance for current challenges we are facing in modern Medicine and specifically in cancer research.
It was the first event of its kind in Belfast and recognises the important part that Queen’s is playing in this rapidly developing area. In biological and medical research, and with advances in genetic and molecular techniques, the volumes of data that one must deal with are increasing exponentially. Being able to analyse these enormous, complex data sets and extract useful information from them using novel statistical, computer-based methods, is at the heart of Bioinformatics. A newly formed team of researchers at Queen’s is leading the way in Cancer Bioinformatics by identifying new genetic and cellular markers of cancer, aimed at understanding basic molecular networks and improving patient diagnosis and targeted therapies for cancer. Professor Peter Hamilton said “This is an important event at Queen’s. Bioinformatics will be the key to unraveling the complexities of cancer as a disease and already underpins so many aspects of cancer research. Having the first meeting of this type at Queen’s demonstrates the lead we as a team are taking in this field”.
The second international conference in Quantitative Biology and Bioinformatics for Modern Medicine is anticipated to take place in Dublin in February 2011.
The CCRCB Summer Research Programme provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in laboratory-based research during the summer months. Each participant will be assigned to a research project in the laboratory of a Principal Investigator and will work as part of an enthusiastic research team comprising postdoctoral fellows, research assistants, PhD students and technicians. The projects will run for an 8-week period between June and September, 2010 and students will work in the laboratory from Monday to Friday on a full-time basis.
Students currently enrolled for Biomedical Sciences, Medicine, Dentistry or a related discipline who have completed at least one year of full-time study are eligible to apply. Several funded studentships are available; these typically pay a student stipend of £150 per week. All successful applicants will automatically be considered for a studentship.
The application process is now open. Please submit a current CV including your full academic profile (or transcript), a cover letter stating your reasons for applying to the Programme and the names and contact details of 2 referees. Please email your application to email@example.com for the attention of Dr Karen McCloskey, Programme Coordinator, by 1st February, 2010.
L-R: Professor Dennis McCance, Director of CCRCB, with Dr Bruce Chabner
Dr Bruce Chabner , an internationally renowned oncologist and cancer pharmacologist was this years Mitchell lecture speaker. The lecture which took place on 12 November 2009 was entitled “From Belfast to Boston: Solving Difficult Problems - A Personal Approach”. In recognition of the enormous contribution that Dr Chabner has made during his illustrious career, he has already received many significant awards and honours, including the Kamotsky Award from the American Association for Clinical Oncology and the Bruce F Kane Award for Drug Development from the American Association for Cancer Research. One of the unique and important features of Dr Chabner’s career has been his continued focus on the improvement of treatment for patients. He has been involved in leading therapeutic advances in a number of diseases such as lymphoma, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, high dose therapies and more recently in the area of targeted therapies.
He has also played a significant role internationally in leading collaborations, in particular between the EORTC and the National Cancer Institute and in his support for cancer programmes in Europe and Asia over the course of the last 25 years. During his visit to CCRCB, Dr Chabner met with a number of the scientists and clinicians within the Centre.
Professor Karen Vouden with Professor Dennis McCance, Director of CCRCB
The first Cancer Research UK annual lecture took place on 1 October 2009. The lecture was given by Professor Karen Vousden , Director of the Beatson Institute in Glasgow who was recently awarded a Royal Medal by the Royal Society of Edinburgh for her outstanding contribution to cancer research. During her visit, Professor Vousden met with several of the principal investigators in CCRCB and over lunch had the opportunity to talk to the post-doctoral fellows and post-graduate students about their ongoing research.
Queen’s is one of the partners in the new Cancer Research UK Centre, established in March 2009. The Centre focuses on research in breast, bowel and oesophageal cancer and radiation biology and is a partnership between Queen’s, the R&D office of the Public Health Agency, the Belfast Trust and Cancer Research UK.
Second International Symposium on Cancer Biology
"Cancer: Found in Translation"
Wednesday 2 September - Thursday 3 September 2009
Europa Hotel, Belfast
Over 200 of the world’s top cancer specialists attended CCRCB's Second International Symposium, "Cancer: Found in Translation" on 2-3 September 2009 at the Europa Hotel, Belfast.
Many leading academics from across America, Australia and Europe, including those from Harvard Medical School in Boston (such as Dr Bill Kaelin, from Harvard's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, pictured below) and from Oxford and Cambridge universities, presented their research.
One in three people in Northern Ireland will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their life and one of the aims of the conference was to build on international links to improve cancer treatments for sufferers. CCRCB is currently carrying out around 50 national and international clinical trials into various cancers with the aim of offering patients new treatment options which will have the best outcomes for them as well as fewer and less severe side effects. The Centre has spun off three successful commercial companies - Almac Diagnostics, Fusion Antibodies and I-Path - employing nearly 200 people.
The initial McClay Foundation lecture “Synthetic Lethal Strategies for Exploiting DNA Repair Defects in Cancer” was presented by Professor Alan Ashworth from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre, Institute of Cancer Research, London.
Two young CCRCB researchers also presented their studies. Dr Kelly Redmond from Newry and Dr Jenny Quinn from Londonderry were amongst the international line-up of speakers sharing their knowledge about the latest developments in cancer research. Dr Redmond spoke about her research into a molecule called FLIP which blocks chemotherapy from working in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the leading cause of cancer death in the US and Europe. By decreasing FLIP levels in NSCLC cells they become more sensitive to chemotherapy. She said, “This is an important finding as it suggests that if we can decrease FLIP levels with new types of drugs, the cancer but not the normal lung tissues will be more effectively killed by chemotherapy.”
Dr Quinn’s research has focused on trying to find the best chemotherapy treatment for both breast and ovarian cancer sufferers, who are usually treated with both platinum and taxane. She wanted to investigate the effects of the drugs on patients with and without the BRCA1 gene, which controls cell growth in normal breast and ovarian cells, preventing tumours forming. She found that patients without BRCA1 benefited significantly from platinum only chemotherapy while those with normal BRCA1 levels gained an almost two year improvement in survival if they also received taxane chemotherapy. Dr Quinn said, “We are now planning further studies that may ultimately lead to the development of a test involving BRCA1 for determining the best chemotherapy treatments for patients with ovarian cancer. Such a test may also prove useful in breast, lung and prostate cancer.”
The symposium was organised by Professor Dennis McCance, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University, who leads a team of around 250 staff.
He said, “ This event reflects CCRCB’s achievements in cancer research and highlights our aspirations to see our knowledge about basic research translated into better and more effective treatments for patients. Through clinical trials we are working to offer patients new treatment options which will have the best outcomes for them. We are using novel ways to select treatments and personalise or tailor them to the patient’s particular mutations. The calibre of speakers that attended our conference and the international links that we have formed demonstrate that our work is considered of a world-class standard.”
Professor Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University, said: “Cancer is a disease feared around the world. Its impact is global. It therefore demands a global response, a response where leading researchers work together across academic disciplines and geographical frontiers. We are pleased to bring together leading academics and researchers from across the world to discuss innovative scientific and medical research that will help those who suffer from cancer.”
Our thanks to all the sponsors who contributed to this conference – Almac Discovery Ltd, Amgen Ltd, Baxter Healthcare, Celgene Ltd, Don Whitley Scientific, Eli Lilly & Co Ltd, Enzo Life Sciences Ltd, Eurogentec, HSC Research & Development, Invest NI, Merck Chemicals Ltd, Pfizer Ltd, Roche Products Ltd and Vector Scientific – and without whom it would be impossible to run such events.
Professor Paul Harkin, CCRCB with the Conlon sisters
A Northern Ireland family who carry a rare and deadly cancer gene has boosted one of the province’s leading research studies into the killer disease with a huge £60,000 donation. Caroline, Bronagh and Bernie are three of a family of four sisters and two brothers. Tests have established that five of them (the four sisters and one brother) carry the BRCA1 gene and two of the sisters have already been diagnosed with breast cancer.
In August, the Conlon sisters visited CCRCB to meet with Professor Paul Harkin and Dr Paul Mullan to learn more about their research into BRCA1 and other hereditary reproductive cancers. The sisters set out to raise £30,000 for breast cancer research in Northern Ireland by organising a Generation Ball. So successful were their efforts, that they raised an incredible £60,000. As a result of their visit to CCRCB earlier in the year, they chose to donate all monies raised to support the work of the BRCA1 research group.. It is thanks to donations like this that keep the vital research going within the Centre.
A member of the Centre for Cancer Research & Cell Biology has been named in the 2009 Queen's Birthday Honours List. Professor of Haematology, Terry Lappin, will receive an OBE for services to medicine. The Queen's Birthday Honours List recognises outstanding achievement and service across the whole of the UK.
A group of CR-UK funded scientists in CCRCB
On 24 March 2009, Belfast joined a unique chain of Cancer Research UK Centres that are being launched across the UK. These cancer centres will draw together world class research and areas of medical expertise to provide the best possible results for cancer patients nationwide. As one of the first centres, the Belfast Cancer Research UK Centre will help set the pace for national and international progress in cancer of the bowel, oesophagus and breast. It will also concentrate on pioneering the latest techniques in radiotherapy, improving cancer diagnosis and developing new, more effective drugs. Collaboration is the key to the success of the Centre which will focus on identifying new targets for cancer drugs, understanding how genes can help predict which treatment will be most effective and developing specific new treatments that have fewer side effects. Cancer Research UK already supports research in Northern Ireland but is looking to increase its contribution up to £2.5m a year to help develop the Centre.
Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry & Biomedical Sciences and Chair of the Board of the new centre, said, “This is a very exciting development for cancer care and cancer research in Northern Ireland. It will add greatly to the options available for cancer patients and is recognition of the quality of cancer care and cancer research already taking place at Queen’s University Belfast and the Belfast Trust”.
The Centre aims to be a world leader in developing treatments tailored to individual cancer patients based on understanding the biology of the disease and how that varies among patients. It brings together the researchers and support from Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland’s Health & Social Care Research & Development Office, Cancer Research UK and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
Professor Dennis McCance, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology and on the Centre's Board, said, "This exciting new initiative will bolster our efforts to bring together a variety of researchers and clinicians to collaborate and work together to improve the lives of cancer patients across Northern Ireland. By building closer links between scientists and doctors we want to increase the pace of research, leading to improved treatments for patients. Northern Ireland is the third link in this exciting chain of cancer centres. We should rightly be proud of the part we’re playing in moving the latest scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the patient’s bedside. We’ll be focusing our efforts on better diagnosis and developing new personalised treatments for patients which will include better and more effective drugs and improving radiotherapy".
Professor Bernie Hannigan, Director of Research and Development for Health & Social Care, Northern Ireland said, “Cancer research must be of the highest quality if it is to lead to better diagnosis, treatment and care of patients and to the prevention of cancer. Quality is achieved only when very costly resources are available to excellent clinicians and researchers. As a significant, long-term funder of cancer research in Belfast we are delighted with the establishment of the Cancer Research UK Centre. We look forward to great achievements as we work together for the benefit of Northern Ireland’s people”.
Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said, "Funding these centres of excellence is one of the charity's priorities and will enable us to work towards the goals we have set to improve the treatment and survival of cancer patients. But we continue to welcome the generous donations we receive from the public to ensure we can continue to build on what we have started today".
Cancer Research UK plans to launch more centres around the UK during 2009.
Professor Sir Philip Cohen, Royal Society Research Professor, University of Dundee, gave the second Mitchell Lecture on Thursday 27 November 2008. The Mitchell Lecture was initiated in 2007 and is held annually to honour the Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast, Senator George Mitchell, for his enormous contributions to the University and the wider community. Professor Cohen's talk was entitled 'The interplay between ubiquitination and phosphorylation in regulating the innate immune system'.
Professor Cohen received his BSc (1966) and PhD (1969) from University College London and then spent two years as a Post Doctoral Fellow at the University of Washington with Edmond Fischer (the 1992 Nobel Laureate for Medicine or Physiology). In 1971 he returned to the UK to become a Faculty member at the University of Dundee where he has continued to work. Professor Cohen has been a Royal Society Research Professor since 1984, Director of the Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit since its inception in 1990 and is the Honorary President of the British Biochemical Society from 2006-2008. He is also the founder and Co-Director of the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT), the UK’s largest collaboration between a basic research institution and the pharmaceutical industry.
Over the past 40 years, Professor Cohen's research has been devoted to studying the role of protein phosphorylation in cell regulation and human disease, a process that controls almost all aspects of life. His key contributions to this area include working out, over a 25 year period, how insulin stimulates the synthesis of glycogen in muscle. Currently his laboratory is working on the signalling pathways that regulate the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and interferons during bacterial and viral infection - research that is aimed at understanding how the uncontrolled production of these substances causes chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and septic shock. Professor Cohen's publication record is prolific, with nearly 500 publications to his credit and from 1992 to 2003 he was the second most cited scientist in the World, in biology and biochemistry.
Professor Cohen has received numerous awards including the Biochemical Society Colworth Medal, the CIBA Medal, Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine, Sir Hans Krebs Medal, the Royal Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Rolf Luft Prize. He has received six honorary doctorates and is a fellow of the Royal Societies of both London and Edinburgh. In 1998 Professor Cohen was knighted in the Queen's birthday honours list for his services to biochemistry.
Rob visited Leukaemia Research funded scientist, Dr Sandra Irvine, CCRCB, to find out more about the vital research that his fundraising will help. Dr Irvine said: “It was great to show Rob around so he could see the work we do in Belfast to help find better treatments for blood cancers.”
Rob, who works for BBC South East, set sail on 12 June from Kent, England in “Wild Rover”, a Sadler 32 yacht. Rob decided to initiate this challenge after meeting an inspiring young woman called Jessie Whitmore from Swanley in Kent. Jessie was just 17 when she died in 2006, having battled acute myeloid leukaemia. Her diary over the last few months of her life is funny, intelligent, hopeful and ultimately tragic. Her last written words were “I want to go home. I want my mum”. Rob explained, “no-one should have to go through what Jessie and her family endured. I know Leukaemia Research conducts vital research into finding cures for blood cancers and I just hope that if I can raise a bit of awareness and some hard cash for them with this voyage, then I can do something to help prevent other families losing loved ones to these terrible diseases.” After Belfast, Rob headed out on the next phase of his journey to Plymouth in South West England, before heading back home to Kent.
Some 150 women across the province took part in a ‘ladies only’ vintage tractor road run on Friday 20 June 2008. The aim of the event was to raise funds for Cancer Research UK, who spend over £1.7 million every year on research in Northern Ireland. Much of this goes to support the pioneering work of scientists and clinicians at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) on the Belfast City Hospital site. The charity carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancers.
The ladies tractor run left from Nursery Road, Ahoghill at 6.30pm on Friday 20 June for the ten mile journey, which took approximately two hours to complete. Organiser Rodney Getty said, “This, the third year of the ‘ladies only’ vintage tractor road run, has been even more successful than the previous years. A number of the participants had never even sat on a tractor before. Once again it was a real fun event while at the same time supporting a very worthwhile cause. The visit to the new CCRCB building to promote this event gave me the opportunity to see some of the research work that CR-UK is currently funding.” Prior to the event, UTV’s Julian Simmons ( pictured left ) got a few pointers from Senior Research Nurse, Ruth Boyd and Scientist, Dr Wendy Allen (both funded by CR-UK), as they geared up for the ‘ladies only’ vintage tractor run.
Pictured above, at the front of the new CCRCB building, UTV’s Julian Simmons got a few pointers from Senior Research Nurse, Ruth Boyd and Scientist, Dr Wendy Allen (both funded by CR-UK), as they geared up for the ladies only vintage tractor run in June.
Pictured above, at the front of the new CCRCB building, UTV’s Julian Simmons got a few pointers from Senior Research Nurse, Ruth Boyd and Scientist, Dr Wendy Allen (both funded by CR-UK), as they geared up for the ladies only vintage tractor run in June.
From left; Dr Scott McCloskey (Clinical Research Fellow, PhD student), Dr Lisa Crawford (Post Doctoral Research Fellow) and Dr Zhanzhong Shi (Post Doctoral Research Fellow) with the Minister for Employment and Learning, Sir Reg Empey, during his tour of the research facilities in the CCRCB building.
Employment and Learning Minister, Sir Reg Empey, visited the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) on 3 April, as part of a series of visits to see at first-hand the wide gap between high educational achievers in Northern Ireland and those who achieve nothing or very little during their time at school. The Minister said that his department is rapidly becoming a remedial department, “We are having to provide a whole infrastructure because some young people have come through 11 years on the school system and have nothing at the end of it.”
Sir Reg Empey said that his department has to address a wide range of skills across Northern Ireland – from basic to world-class. “Some can’t write their names on an envelope, while at the other end of the scale is Queen’s University Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology. Here, some of the most talented local people and others from all over the world are working on ground-breaking cancer research”.
Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Peter Gregson, said, “The magnet for people outside of Northern Ireland coming here is that they find it is the right place to develop their international careers and also influence the future of patient care and research. Our aim is to have a world-class medical school.”
The Minister said there is no one single solution to the problem of the gulf between high and low achievers. “I think it is a scandal that so many people have spent years in education establishments and come out sometimes worse than they went in. However, there is also a lot to be proud of at the other end of the scale where we are attracting very high calibre people in. It is a very mixed picture but one that is capable of being improved”.
Dr Gerry Hanna pictured with other members of the PET-CT in Radiotherapy Planning Group
Minister for Employment and Learning, Sir Reg Empey, Professor Surolia from India's National Institute of Immunology and Professor Paddy Johnston, Dean of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen's
An international research partnership to develop new ways to treat and understand cancer has been established between India and Northern Ireland. The agreement was signed between Queen's University Belfast and the Ministry of Biotechnology, Government of India. It involves top cancer specialists from the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi and Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen's University.
To strengthen the agreement an international conference on Cancer Biology supported by the government of India and the Department of Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland will run from 14 – 16 November in New Delhi. The Northern Ireland Minister for Employment and Learning, Sir Reg Empey, will officially open the conference.
Leading the Northern Ireland delegation is world renowned cancer oncologist, Professor Patrick Johnston from Queen's University. Speaking at the event he said: "Cancer does not recognise national boundaries and affects people across the globe. It is only through international research partnerships and the sharing of information that we can learn more about the disease. Through this collaboration we will be able to develop new treatments and improve the diagnosis of cancer to the betterment of everyone.
"India has great expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. With the beginning of this new partnership I am confident that we will take significant strides in combating one of the worlds most prevalent diseases."
The International Symposium features over 30 speakers from the United States, Europe and India, including seven invitees from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University.
Queen's University Belfast is on a ten day visit to strengthen its links with India.
In association with Bengal Engineering and Science University, Kolkata, Queen's will launch a unique scholarship programme at BESU on 19 November to allow Indian science and technology students to live and work in Belfast. The new scholarship scheme will help identify the research leaders of tomorrow.
Indian students will study in the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT), an established world class research centre at Queen's University. Students will also engage in a range of academic, cultural and social activities.
Media enquiries to Head of Communications, Kevin Mulhern, +44 28 9097 5323 (office), +44 7813 015431 (cell), or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Queen's officially opens its new £25 million Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology.
Queen’s Chancellor Senator George Mitchell will today (Nov 28), officially open the University’s new £25M cancer research centre aimed at stopping the spread of cancer.
The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) on Queen’s Lisburn Road campus will develop new avenues for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases to help relieve human suffering.
The state-of-the-art facility houses over 300 researchers from across the world. Along with the new Northern Ireland Clinical Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, it makes Belfast one of Europe’s leaders in the battle against cancer in the 21st Century.
The development of both facilities has also created the first comprehensive cancer centre in Ireland, promoting international quality research programmes linking Queen’s, the Health Service and other organisations funding cancer research.
The hall-mark of all the Centre’s research programmes will be a collaborative interaction between clinical and laboratory research experts from across Queen’s in fields as diverse as Chemistry, Mathematics, Clinical Trials, Immunology, Virology, Pharmacy and Cell Biology.
Declaring the Centre officially open, Queen’s Chancellor Senator George Mitchell said: “This new Centre places Northern Ireland in the front line of the worldwide crusade to tackle cancer.
“The international dimension of the Centre’s work is crucial. Cancer does not recognize boundaries or geographical frontiers. The battle to defeat it must also be waged on a global scale. It is through international research partnerships and the sharing of information that we can create a powerful synergy to combat cancer for the betterment of everyone.
“Professor Paddy Johnston’s international reputation and that of his team are a catalyst in the forging of global partnerships to relieve the human suffering from cancer.”
Such key partnerships include the CCRCB’s association with the National Cancer Institute Cancer Consortium (NCI) and the recently announced agreement with the National Institute of Immunology in New Delhi, India.
Professor Patrick Johnston, Director of the new Centre, said: “Today is a major milestone for Northern Ireland and Queen’s in launching an international centre for excellence in cancer research and care. This centre will allow us to play our role as a leader in the fight against cancer.”
The Northern Ireland Cancer Clinical Trials Unit, part of the CCRCB, was this week also recognised as one of 40 Clinical Trials Units (CTUs) to have successfully gone through a new UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Clinical Trials Unit Registration Process. Registration is designed to improve the quality and quantity of available expertise to carry out clinical trials in the UK.
Eilish McCabe, from Aughnacloy, a patient currently on a clinical trial as a result of the work of the CCRCB said: “I am delighted to see this new facility declared open today. This centre has given me new hope and I know it will do the same for many others across Northern Ireland and beyond.”
To mark the official opening of the Centre, a two day international Scientific Symposium is taking place at Queen’s Medical Biology Centre. Featuring top scientific, research and cancer experts from around the globe, Professor Neal Rosen, Head, Development Therapeutics, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, will deliver the inaugural Mitchell Lecture sponsored by Hewlett Packard.
Also speaking will be Professor Paul Workman, Director of the Centre for Cancer Therapeutics, Institute for Cancer Research, London; Dr Richard Youle, Chief, Biochemistry Section, Porter Neuroscience Research Center, National Cancer Institute USA; Professor Rosemary O’Connor, Professor of Cell Biology, University College Cork; Professor Nick Lemoine, Director, Institute of Cancer and CRUK Clinical Centre, Barts and The London Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry; Professor Roger Griffin, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, Newcastle University; Dr Christian Frezza, Dulbecco-Telethon Institute, Venetian Institute of Molecular Medicine, Italy; Professor Caroline Dive, Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmacy, Patterson Institute for Cancer Research; Professor Anton Berns, Head of Research, Molecular Genetics, Netherlands Cancer Institute; Professor Alan Burnett, Professor of Haematology, University of Cardiff; Professor Dario Alessi, Deputy Director of the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit, University of Dundee and Dr Chris Takimoto, Director of Pharmacology, Cancer Therapy and Research Centre, San Antonio.
Further information on the CCRCB is available by visiting
Media enquiries to Lisa Mitchell, Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 5384, m 0781 44 22 572 or email email@example.com.
Watch CCRCB Opening Online
Watch the opening of the Centre online, and hear from some of the key personalities who attended.
Click on the appropriate link below to view the video: