Awards showcase quality cancer research happening during pandemic

The determination and resilience of some of the country’s brightest cancer researchers who dealt with immense challenges posed by the pandemic was recognised at the Irish Cancer Society Research Awards on Wednesday.

The ceremony showcased some of the high-quality research still being carried out by teams and individuals throughout Ireland in often very trying circumstances, with nominees receiving top honours across a number of categories.

Ireland’s growing reputation as an international hub for cutting-edge studies, trials and projects in this area was well in evidence on the day, with award winners originally hailing from a number of different countries including Greece, Portugal and Bangladesh.

The title of Senior Researcher of the Year went to Dr Arman Rahman of UCD and Precision Oncology Ireland for his efforts in developing an innovative tissue imaging platform that can help researchers better understand what treatments may be more effective for certain cancer patients.

“This award is an enormous recognition which I am very humbled to receive. There is a global need for more research in personalised medicine for cancer patients, and for researchers it is very exciting to be able to rely on really comprehensive data to judge what treatments can work for which patients,” Dr Rahman said.

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It is a particular honour following the last year. Covid-19 has had a severe impact on how we do our job, as we have had to operate with restricted access to labs, equipment and meeting space among other difficulties.

Dr Arman Rahman, Senior Researcher of the Year
Dr Arman Rahman

The Research Support Staff award went to Dr Despina Bazou from the Mater University Hospital, who was nominated by her colleagues for her work across various projects including the establishment of the hospital’s next generation sequencing facility, and a research programme that aims to aid treatment decisions for multiple myeloma patients.


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There has been a huge increase in the number of drugs for multiple myeloma, and while some can work for an initial period we find that patients usually build up a resistance to them, so it is really valuable to be able to know which treatments may offer the best quality of life to these patients for the longest time.

Dr Despina Bazou, Research Support Staff of the Year
Despina Bazou

"This award is a great boost during a difficult time, and I’m so thankful to the people who have nominated me,” Dr Bazou said.

Winner of the PhD Researcher of the Year Award voted for by a live audience during the online event was Romina Silva from UCD, for her work in attempting to identify what therapies can work best for patients of prostate and ovarian cancers by examining tumour DNA in their blood.

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It feels incredible to win this award. I really enjoy doing these presentations and sharing with people what we do in the lab because I think it’s so important to communicate it back to the public and cancer patients who support our work.

Romina Silva, PhD Researcher of the Year
Romina Silva

Irish Cancer Society Director of Research Dr Robert O’Connor congratulated the winners on their awards: “Our country is blessed to have so many passionate and talented researchers building on the rich heritage of life-improving cancer research in this country.

“Covid-19 has caused enormous challenges but the 2021 Irish Cancer Society Research Awards show how, with continued support from the public, we are still able to sustain and foster world-class research. In these dark days of the pandemic, we cannot and will not lose focus on the hope of improving cancer outcomes through research.”