The National Breast Cancer Research Institute funds research to positively impact future outcomes for breast cancer patients. Check out recent progress made by the research team in the areas highlighted below.
In the area of risk prediction, the research team is undertaking studies to investigate genetic markers (SNPs) that will reveal a vast amount of genetic information on the population with the objective of better predicting if people with a strong family history of breast cancer will get breast cancer, which subtype they will be diagnosed with, and how they will respond to therapy. The particular gene panel that displays a positive association with breast cancer can be honed to improve the risk prediction methods used clinically on the patient. In the area of molecular profiling, the research team aims to identify a blood borne marker for specific breast cancer diagnosis. Subtyping or disease surveillance will ensure patients will get targeted, individualised miRNA therapy and be spared side effects or unnecessary interventions
The research team’s breast regeneration study looks at growing a patient’s own cells with the objective of being able to carry out autologous reconstructions. It is hoped that “self” implant will be more oncologically safe, reduce any adverse immune system responses (e.g., infection, rejection) and have a better cosmetic outcome for the patient.
The research team has isolated exosomes from mesenchymal stem cells (known to “home” to tumour) that have the potential to act as vehicles for tumour targeted therapy, and have developed a method of rapidly isolating the miRNA using automated technology. A photo acoustic imaging system is being used in early trials on breast cancer patients to examine the effect of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in vivo—a novel method of monitoring tumour growth, blood supply and response to therapy.
Since 1990, the research team has been developing a Cancer Biobank with the financial support of the National Breast Cancer Research Institute. This collection of clinical samples is vital for the research team to be able to investigate the various biological markers of cancer.
Samples may be collected from patients from several hospitals in Ireland, such as Bons Secours Cork, Beaumont Hospital, St James’s Hospital, Sligo University Hospital, Mayo University Hospital, Letterkenny University Hospital as well as University Hospital Galway. Specimens include blood and tissue samples. All samples are coded and anonymised before low temperature storage.
Patients who volunteer to donate their samples are requested to sign an approved consent form. The Cancer Biobank has received ethical approval from the Galway University Hospital’s Clinical Research Ethics Committee.