National Breast Cancer Research Institute and University of Galway announce new €2m research partnership

University of Galway has announced a new partnership with the National Breast Cancer Research Institute (NBCRI) with the charity committing a €2 million research investment fund over two years.

The collaboration builds on a longstanding relationship between NBCRI and the University, which dates back to the 1990s and has involved support for numerous projects and developments in breast cancer research.

One in 7 Irish women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life-time and there are 3,507 breast cancer diagnoses every year – a figure which is set to continue to increase.

Thanks to advances in research and healthcare, the survival rate of breast cancer patients has gone from 50% to 88% over the last 40 years.

The NBCRI-University of Galway partnership runs until October 2025 and sees the charity committing almost €2 million for a variety of research activity and projects led by Professor Michael Kerin; Professor Aoife Lowery; Dr Róisín Dwyer; and Dr Nicola Miller. They include:

  • translational research related to metastatic breast cancer; genetics to predict risk and treatment response; and biomarker discovery
  • development of the Cancer Biobank housing tissue and blood samples crucial to research
  • clinical research focused on cardio-oncology and how cancer therapy affects the heart; breast cancer imaging; and women’s health including post treatment support and rehab.

Since its foundation in 1989, the NBCRI has strived to increase awareness, improve access to treatment and conduct internationally significant research into breast cancer. A significant part of that work has been in partnership with University of Galway. The new partnership provides an opportunity to expand this key relationship with increased investment in the breast cancer research programme as the charity and academia work together to achieve better outcomes for patients.

President of University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “On behalf of the University of Galway community I would like to show a deep appreciation for both the longstanding relationship we have with the NBCRI but also the clear focus of supporting research for the public good – a strong ethos of our University. This partnership goes to the heart of our value of excellence and acts as a clear demonstration of the potential to make a difference in people’s lives, here in the west of Ireland, nationally and internationally.”

The fund will enable research opportunities from undergraduate through to PhD and postdoctorate levels with projects focusing on trying to answer key questions in breast cancer research and treatment, including:

  • How do cells communicate and how does cancer metastasise
  • How can we manipulate cells to find metastatic breast cancer cells and direct therapy to them?
  • Can we detect new blood biomarkers for better diagnosis and to help predict response to treatment?
  • Can we identify gene mutations to help predict who might develop breast cancer?
  • How does cancer therapy affect the heart?
  • Microwave Breast Imaging – Is it a safe option and is it more sensitive than current mammography?

Speaking about the partnership NBCRI Director of Research and Professor of Surgery at University of Galway, Professor Michael Kerin, said: “The advancement of research and healthcare for people diagnosed with cancer is remarkable. Day-in, day-out, we see patients and their loved ones in our clinics who reap the rewards. We need to increase the pace of those advancements in cancer treatment, care, quality of life and cures, by ensuring our patients can access a fit-for-purpose cancer centre that is underpinned by quality research, education and clinical trials.

“I would like to thank the NBCRI Board and its Chairperson, Caroline Loughnane, for their leadership and commitment to advancing breast cancer research to improve outcomes for patients. A commitment of this scale is testament to the value that the NBCRI charity places on research at the University of Galway and how it can be the catalyst for improvements in care and the lives of our patients and their families, as well as a lasting global impact on research.”

Governed by a voluntary board, NBCRI is funded almost entirely by public donations from fundraising events held nationwide which all help to keep the charity “in the pink” to fund research. The charity is one of the driving forces in the development of a major new cancer centre in the west of Ireland.

Among many initiatives over the years of partnership with the University, NBCRI has supported major capital developments providing research and patient facilities for breast cancer research,  including the Symptomatic Breast Unit and the Lambe Institute for Translational Research on the grounds of Galway University Hospital. In addition, NBCRI has been at the forefront of developing many of the key leaders in academic surgery and science including taking part in important national research initiatives such as Precision Oncology Ireland. The charity has also supported more than 40 full-time postgraduate places and more than 100 undergraduate medicine and science students as part of the University of Galway School of Medicine summer research programme.

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