Leading The Fight Against Cancer

Governance

Executive Council

Dr Amanda McCann

President

Dr. Amanda McCann PhD, is a Principal Investigator and Senior Conway Fellow in the UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research in University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland. She is also Associate Professor in the UCD School of Medicine and was Head of Pathology within the School from 2015-2018.

Her group’s specific cancer research interests are focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying chemoresistance for women presenting with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and ovarian/pelvic cancer. In this regard she has published extensively in the area of cancer cell senescence and the role of extracellular vesicles/exosomes in the chemoresistant phenotype. She was also a member of the founding committee in the establishment of the International Cellular Senescence Association (ICSA).

In 2017, Amanda became Director of the UCD Centre in Translational Oncology (CTO) with an official launch in September 2018. In 2016, she established and currently chairs the UCD Patient Voice in Cancer Research (PVCR) committee made up of patients, researchers and health professionals that aims to engage the general public and cancer survivors in cancer research ensuring a two-way dialogue between patients and researchers. Within UCD, Amanda sits on an expert panel for the Rapid Realist Review (RRR) detailing the mechanisms that enable the reciprocal involvement of seldom heard groups in health and social care. This initiative is funded through a HRB Ignite award, where UCD in collaboration with 10 partner organisations is developing a network and resource platform to firmly embed patient and public involvement (PPI) in UCD’s research learning and teaching activities. In relation to patient advocate groups, she previously was a Co-Director of IPPOSI and research advisor to Debra Ireland.

In 2017, Amanda was elected President of the Irish Association for Cancer Research (IACR) and has led on patient involvement with cancer researchers across Ireland as part of the annual IACR conferences. As President of the IACR, she represents the association on the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) National Societies Committee and was previously Honorary Secretary of the IACR 1998-2000.

Dr. Antoinette Perry

Honorary Treasurer

Dr Antoinette Perry is an Assistant Professor in Genetics and Cell Biology at University College Dublin. She is a PI and UCD Conway Fellow and is one of a triumvirate of co-directors of the Cancer Biology and Therapeutics laboratory at the UCD Conway Institute (www.cbtlab.ie).

Dr Perry leads a research team that focuses on translational prostate cancer epigenetics; understanding the role of epigenomic aberrations in the pathogenesis of prostate cancer and harnessing these aberrations to develop prognostic and predictive biomarkers. Dr Perry has a particular interest in studying DNA methylation changes in “liquid biopsies” that can act as surrogates for non-invasive tumour detection and monitoring. Her research has also highlighted the importance of epigenetic dysregulation of the Wnt and IGF axis in prostate cancer, and has identified a number of potential biomarkers for aggressive prostate cancer. Other research avenues involve the exploration of chemopreventive properties of nutraceuticals, including seaweed bioactives and cannabinoids.

Prior to joining UCD in 2015, Dr Perry studied at Trinity College Dublin, where she graduated with a BA in Human Genetics in 2001. She subsequently secured a post-graduate scholarship from the Irish Research Council to fund her PhD in the field of prostate cancer epigenetics, which she carried out at the Institute of Molecular Medicine, Trinity College Dublin. Upon award of her PhD in 2007, Antoinette continued her post-doctoral research in this field at TCD. In 2009, she was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship from the Irish Cancer Society, and subsequently a Young Investigator award from the US Prostate Cancer Foundation (2011-2014). In 2015, Antoinette was appointed as the Breast-Predict Lecturer in Cancer Biology at the School of Biomedical and Biomolecular Science at UCD.

Dr Graham Pidgeon

Honorary Secretary

Dr. Graham Pidgeon is an Associate Professor at Trinity College Dublin and a principle investigator at the Trinity Translational Medicine Institute at St. James’s Hospital. He established the MSc in Translational Oncology at TCD in 2012 and has acted as Director and Course co-ordinator for that program. Dr. Pidgeon’s research interests focus on the molecular pathways linking excess adipose tissue and visceral obesity with tumour development, progression and response to treatment in a range of solid malignancies. The group have a particular interest in the molecular pathways activated in cancer cells within the obese tumour microenvironment, including the activation of immune cell subsets in visceral adipose tissue, alterations in tumour metabolism and how obesity drives the EMT process in solid malignancies. Other areas of interest include the role of bioactive lipid enzymes, including cycloxygenase and lipoxygenase, in tumour cell signalling pathways and metastasis. Recent research has focused on the combination of molecular targeted therapies with chemotherapy and radiation therapy in gastrointestinal cancers. Through national and international collaborations the group are investigating the potential of novel pharmacological and naturally occurring LOX inhibitors as anti-angiogenic and anti-cancer agents. The ultimate aim of this research program is to identify novel therapeutic targets that may prevent the development and/or progression of multiple cancers, through understanding the molecular mechanisms behind the disease.

Senior Council Members

Dr. Isabella Bray

Senior Council Member

Isabella is currently Research and Operations Manager at the National Children’s Research Centre, where paediatric cancer research is a key priority area.
Prior to this appointment the majority of her career has been dedicated to cancer research. In 2006 she completed her PhD at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology, DCU, the aim of which was to examine the involvement of two genes, eIF4E & erbB2 in breast and lung cancer, and specifically determine how these genes influenced cancer spread and resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. Following her PhD, she remained in DCU to work on the identification of novel genes associated with breast cancer before moving to RCSI in 2007.

At RCSI the focus of her work moved to neuroblastoma, a rare paediatric cancer which accounts for 15% of all childhood cancer deaths. In particular she was interested in small pieces of genetic material called microRNA (miRNA) and their role in neuroblastoma. Her work included the identification of miRNA profiles related to survival in neuroblastoma, the role of miRNA in the progression of neuroblastoma and more specifically, understanding how miRNA influenced resistance to treatment in neuroblastoma. In 2012 she became Coordinator of the Cancer Genetics Group in RCSI before leaving in 2014 to join the Fannin Scientific technical applications and sales team.

In January 2016 she moved to the Irish Cancer Society as Research Manager. Here she worked closely with the Research team to implement research strategy and manage research grants both internally and in partnership with external research groups and funding bodies. She also worked closely with the communications and fundraising teams at the Society to ensure supported research was accurately conveyed to the public.

Link To NCRC Profile

Dr. Brona Murphy

Senior Council Member

Dr Brona Murphy is a lecturer in the Department of Physiology & Medical Physics and principal investigator within the Centre for Systems Medicine in the same department. She received her B.Sc. in Biotechnology from NUI, Galway in 2000. She then studied in Trinity College Dublin under the supervision of Prof Seamus Martin and received her PhD in 2004. Her thesis research examined apoptosis-associated caspase activation events. Upon moving to the RCSI, she was awarded a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship from the Health Research Board to study the regulation of apoptotic pathways in the epileptic brain. Her research was conducted between laboratories in the RCSI and the Dow Neurobiology Lab, Legacy Research Centre, Portland, Oregon, USA. Upon her return to Ireland, Dr Murphy was awarded a Stokes Lectureship from Science Foundation Ireland and began working as an independent PI. The focus of Dr Murphy’s research is to gain a better understanding of how brain tumours resist cell death upon treatment. Her group examines cell death pathways at the molecular level, in both adult and paediatric brain tumours, with the overall aim of increasing the susceptibility of these tumours to death. Dr Murphy hopes that by elucidating and targeting cell death pathways in these tumours, current and future therapies will be more effective, and ultimately patient survival will improve. Her group’s research is funded by grants from the RCSI, HRB, SFI, H2020 Framework Programme and the NCRC.

Link To RCSI Profile

Dr Triona Ni Chonghaile

Senior Council Member

Dr. Ní Chonghaile joined the Physiology and Medical Physics Department in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, in 2015. She was recruited under the Strategic Acadmeic Recruitment program (StAR), as a Research Lecturer. Dr. Ní Chonghaile completed a PhD in Biochemistry in 2008 at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Dr Ní Chonghaile had an interest in translational science and did a post-doctoral Fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School with Prof. Anthony Letai. During her postdoctoral career Dr. Ní Chonghaile published first author publications in high-impact journals including Science, Cancer Discovery and received a Multiple Myeloma Research Fellowship to fund her postdoctoral research.
Dr. Ní Chonghaile’s lab is interested in understanding why certain cancers are sensitive to chemotherapy while others are resistant and how best to treat resistant cancers. She has a particular interest in the epigenetic regulation of chemoresistance in leukemia and breast cancer. Based on her work, she received the European Association of Cancer Research senior young scientist of the year award (2014), along with receiving the prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO UK & Ireland For Women in Science Fellowship (2015). Her research is funded by grants from SFI-HRB-Wellcome Trust, Breast Cancer Now, RCSI and the Irish Research Council.

Link To RCSI Profile

Link To Lab Profile

Dr Eva Szegezdi

Senior Council Member

Eva Szegezdi is a research lecturer in cancer biology at the National University of Ireland, Galway and principal investigator of the Apoptosis Research Centre within NUIG.
Dr. Szegezdi received her PhD in medical science in 2000 studying cell death signalling at the University of Debrecen, Hungary. She then joined the Cell Stress and Apoptosis Research laboratory led by Prof. Afshin Samali at the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2001 to study stress-induced cell death in heart and pancreatic cells and from 2005 death receptor signal transduction in cancer. She received a Science Foundation Ireland Starting Investigator Research Award and an Irish Cancer Society Research Fellow award in 2010 and established her research group focusing on systems biology of death receptor signal transduction in cancer. She took up an academic position in the Discipline of Biochemistry, National University of Ireland, Galway.
Research and Clinical Interests: Current research in her laboratory focuses on systems level analysis of signal transduction wiring of cancer cells to predict tumour drug responses. Particular focus of her research is the tumour-microenvironment communication in leukaemia and understanding how the microenvironment drives the resistance of blood cancers to chemotherapy drugs. Eva Szegezdi also acts as the head of the recently established Blood Cancer Biobank Ireland in Blood Cancer Network Ireland, and director of the MSc programme in Cancer Research in NUIG.

Dr Aileen Houston

Senior Council Member

Dr. Aileen Houston is a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Medicine, University College Cork (UCC) and a Faculty Member of the APC Microbiome Ireland, UCC. She has a B.Sc. in Biomedical Science and a Ph.D. in Medicine from UCC. Her thesis research investigated the role of death receptors in colon carcinogenesis. In 2005, she was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship from the Health Research Board of Ireland to investigate the molecular mechanisms regulating the expression of apoptotic death receptors in colon cancer, and was awarded in 2006 the St. Luke’s Young Investigator Award from the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland.

Dr. Houston’s research focuses on colon cancer, and on the chronic inflammatory signals that can promote tumour growth. One specific area of research focuses on members of the death receptor family. While these receptors can induce the death of cancer cells, they can also activate pathways other than those resulting in cell death. She is particularly interested in these alternative pathways, and their role in promoting tumour development and growth. Other ongoing research projects focus on members of the interleukin-1 family, in particular investigating how signalling by members of this family modulates intestinal tumorigenesis and the inflammatory response. Finally, although genes contribute to the development and progression of colon cancer, the gut microbiota are also important players. Research projects in the laboratory also focus on the ability of these microorganisms to promote intestinal heath as well as disease. The ultimate aim of her research is to identify potential targets for the development of anti-inflammatory reagents and anti-cancer therapies. Research in her laboratory is currently funded by Science Foundation Ireland.

Link To UCC Profile

Dr Paul Dowling

Senior Council Member

Dr Paul Dowling is a lecturer and principal investigator in the Biology Department at Maynooth University. Prior to taking up this post, Dr Dowling had positions as a postdoctoral researcher and senior scientist at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology, Dublin City University. The research interests in the clinical proteomics laboratory focus on identifying proteins involved in human disease, and to understand how their expression, structure and function cause illness. Strategically, proteomics is a very important area as it is still a relatively new science, and researchers have only scraped the surface as regards how powerful proteomics will become over the coming years. A specific area of research focus is to identify companion biomarkers of therapeutic response and molecular mechanisms associated with drug resistance in Multiple Myeloma, in collaboration with national and international colleagues who share similar interests.

Dr Declan McKenna

Senior Council Member

Dr Declan McKenna is a Lecturer in the School of Biomedical Sciences at Ulster University, Coleraine
Translational research in Dr McKenna’s laboratory is focused on the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in disease. His main disease focus is prostate cancer and he is investigating how epigenetic regulation leads to the abnormal expression of several miRNAs which drives cancer progression.

The functionality and novel targets of selected miRNAs are being studied to improve the diagnosis, prognosis and potential therapeutic intervention of this disease, with particular emphasis on developing miRNA serum profiling as a valuable clinical tool for cancer and other disorders.

He is also interested in hypoxia-related mechanisms of prostate cancer progression and is currently investigating how combining novel hypoxia-activated drugs with existing therapies can improve tumour growth control by impacting upon miRNA expression and other molecular pathways in the tumour cells.

Dr McKenna’s research involves collaboration with colleagues in academia, industry and clinical institutions through funded research projects.

He is also a keen supporter of Public Engagement in Science and is actively involved in several outreach initiatives, as well as being a registered member of the STEM Ambassador programme in Northern Ireland.

Dr James Brown

Senior Council Member

Dr Brown received his B.App.Sc.(Hons) through the Queensland University of Technology (Brisbane, Australia) and completed his PhD at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (Brisbane, Australia), investigating the cellular mechanisms for detecting and responding to DNA damage and genotoxic stress. Subsequently he moved to NUI Galway where he completed several successful postdoctoral positions investigating and publishing on the molecular mechanisms underpinning the DNA damage response, including centrosome amplification and stem cell genome stability & migration mechanisms.
Currently a Lecturer in the Disciple of Surgery, NUI Galway, he supervises postgraduate students and delivers several modules on practical bioinformatics. His group investigates genome stability by designing and testing novel targeted inhibitors and exploring their potential as breast cancer therapeutics. This work has resulted in a number of important publications and the Irish Association for Cancer Research European Young Scientist Award (2015). Collaborative projects focus on improving the discovery and characterization of novel biomarkers (such as miRNA) for the diagnosis and treatment of breast, with the ultimate goal of improving patient survival.

Dr. Joanne Lysaght

Senior Council Member

Dr. Joanne Lysaght is an Associate Professor at Trinity College Dublin and leads the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Group in the Trinity Translational Medicine Institute at St. James’s Hospital. She is course co-ordinator for the M.Sc. in Translational Oncology.
Her research group focuses on the impact of obesity on anti-tumour immune responses in gastrointestinal cancer patients, with a particular focus on T lymphocytes. We also examine the impact of obesity on hepatic inflammation and post-operative recovery and elucidating the role of adaptive immunity in the progression of pre-malignant conditions to cancer. In addition, a large component of our research is focused on identifying and developing new immunotherapeutic strategies and targets for gastrointestinal cancers, through targeting chemokine pathways and cellular metabolism, identifying the impact of standard therapies such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy on immune cells and the best combination approaches with immunotherapy. This work mainly focuses on immune checkpoint inhibitors and developing approaches to circumvent immune evasion in order to boost response rates to immunotherapy. In addition we are also investigating the role of inflammation in conditions such as cancer cachexia and the use of inflammatory markers such as CRP as a diagnostic tool. Dr. Lysaght’s research is funded by grants from HRB, Irish Research Council and the Irish Cancer Society.

Link To TCD Profile

Dr. Naomi Walsh

Senior Council Member

Dr. Naomi Walsh completed her PhD in Cancer Research from Dublin City University in 2008, and was awarded outstanding graduate researcher award from DCU’s Faculty of Science & Health. She also holds a Masters of Public Health (MPH) from University College Dublin. She conducted her post-doctoral research as a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute, USA. Upon her return to Ireland in 2015, Dr. Walsh held the HRB/Irish Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Fellow in the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology, DCU. Subsequently, she received a Science Foundation Ireland Starter Investigator Research Grant (2016-2020) and established her research group. In 2017, she was awarded the Irish Cancer Society researcher of the year.

Dr. Walsh’s current research is focused on developing organotypic 3D cancer models to define and validate the biological consequences of genomic variants of pancreatic cancer. Her research aims to understand the development of pancreatic cancer, to uncover markers for early detection and to identify those at high risk of pancreatic cancer.

Other interests include understanding the tumour diversity caused by genomic alterations which contributes to cancer resistance to chemotherapy and molecular targeted therapies in breast and melanoma. Her lab uses genomic and functional NGS approaches to identify the mechanisms of genomic and immunological diversity to develop prognostic/predictive signatures and therapeutic strategies to overcome treatment resistance.

Link To DCU Profile

Dr. Stephen Maher

Senior Council Member

Dr. Alex Eustace

Senior Council Member

Dr. Marion Butler

Senior Council Member

Dr. Margaret McGee

Senior Council Member

Dr. Niamh Buckley

Senior Council Member

Dr. Fiona Furlong

Senior Council Member

Dr. David Hughes

Senior Council Member

PPI Council Members

Claire Kilty,

PPI Council Member

Kay McKeon,

PPI Council Member

Kay Curtain

PPI Council Member

Kay Curtin, is living with Melanoma Cancer. Diagnosed in 2004 she was a participant in a randomised adjuvant clinical trial. She progressed to Stage 4 in 2015. Since then she has helped run Melanoma Support Ireland. She has attended ASCO and presented at ESMO patient advocacy track. She was amongst the first cohort of advocates to complete the IPPOSI- Irish patient education program. Kay, is the patient consultant to Clinical Trials Ireland melanoma DSSG and a member of their Patient Forum. She is a faculty member of Melanoma Patient Network Europe and has presented at their annual conference. She presented the first patient led poster at Irish Melanoma Forum conference based on her own research. Her interests include patient involvement in research, patient reported outcomes, patient access to innovation, dispelling the pseudoscience that surrounds cancer.

Link To Kays Blog

Margaret Grayson

PPI Council Member

Margaret Grayson is Chair of the Northern Ireland Cancer Research Consumer Forum, and is a Personal and Public Involvement (PPI) representative on the NI Cancer Trials Network (NICTN) Co-ordinating Centre Executive Committee. Margaret was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and has been involved in partnering with researchers since 2010, including membership of several study steering groups and HSC Research & Development Division PIER Group; and is also a co-applicant on an NIHR funded study.

Nationally, she represents NI on the National Cancer Research Institute Consumer Forum Steering Group. Margaret is a member of the Cancer Research UK Sounding Board. She is also on the Patient Advisory Panel for the CRUK £20 million Grand Challenge Award. Margaret is a trained facilitator for Building Research Partnerships workshop and a member of Independent Cancer Patients’ Voice.

Prior to her retirement in 2010, Margaret worked for 39 years as a Therapy Radiographer with a specific interest in psychosocial oncology.

In June 2018 Margaret was awarded an MBE for services to cancer research in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Junior Council Members

Dr Maria Prencipe

Junior Council Member

Dr. Maria Prencipe was awarded her Degree in Biological Sciences followed by a Master in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from L’Aquila University, Italy. After 3 years as a research assistant in the research hospital “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza”, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, she moved to Ireland where she was awarded her PhD in Cancer Biology from University College Dublin, studying the mechanisms of resistance to taxane treatment in breast and ovarian cancer. As a postdoctoral fellow within Molecular Therapeutic for Cancer Ireland (MTCI) research cluster, she studied the molecular mechanisms of resistance to advanced prostate cancer treatments, identifying novel transcription factors as potential new therapies for advanced prostate cancer. She was awarded an Irish Cancer Society research fellowship in 2012 to carry on her work on transcription factors’ role in prostate cancer which she expanded as part of the Fast-Path Marie Curie FP7 People work programme, Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP), spending one year in OncoMark Ltd. Dr. Prencipe was recently recruited by Professor John Crown’s research team and she was the recipient of The Caroline Foundation fellowship 2018. Dr. Prencipe’s work has resulted in more than 20 scientific publications and prestigious prizes such as the St. Luke’s Young Investigator award 2014, the Irish Cancer Society Researcher of the Year 2016 and the EACR Young Scientist Award 2017.

Link To UCD Profile

Dr Niamh Lynam-Lennon

Junior Council Member

Dr Niamh Lynam-Lennon graduated from Dublin City University with a B.Sc. in Analytical Science in 2007. She received her PhD in cancer biology from Trinity College Dublin in 2011. Dr Lynam-Lennon is currently a senior postdoctoral researcher in the Dept. of Surgery, Trinity College Dublin, where she works in the area of chemoradiation therapy resistance in oesophageal cancer. Her research interests are focused on two main areas; prediction of response to therapy and identification of novel treatment strategies to enhance the tumour response to therapy, with the ultimate goal of improving treatment and survival for patients. Her research spans several topical areas including miRNA and gene expression profiling, altered mitochondrial function and energy metabolism and cancer stem-like cells in treatment resistance.
Dr Lynam-Lennon’s work has resulted in a number of important publications and she has received several prestigious awards such as Roche Researcher of the Year Award 2010, Irish Radiation Research Society Young Investigator Award 2013 and European Association for Cancer Research Young Scientist Award (Junior Award) 2014, for her work. She was recently awarded an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral fellowship to further her research.

Dr Sara Charmsaz

Junior Council Member

Dr. Sara Charmsaz obtained her BS and MS in Biotechnology with academic excellence from Griffith University, Australia in 2009. She then worked as a Research Assistant in QIMR Berghofer medical research institute and subsequently started her PhD in 2010 investigating the role Eph family of receptor tyrosine kinases in cancer and was granted her PhD in 2014 from University of Queensland, Australia. Her work on these projects has resulted in a number of important publications.
She then moved to Ireland in 2015 and joined the Endocrine Oncology team at Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) and since then she has worked on a number of projects including understanding and defining the role of stem cells in endocrine resistant breast cancer. She has also been working on new monitoring biomarkers of response to endocrine treatment in breast cancer. In 2016, she joined an SFI-Pfizer project as a lead scientist and is now involved in the research and development of new therapeutic targets for ER-positive metastatic disease.

Dr Kyle Matchet

Junior Council Member

Dr Denis Collins

Junior Council Member

Dr Meave Kiely

Junior Council Member