Irish Cancer Society research scholars Dr Conor Murphy and John Daly
August 28, 2017

Irish Cancer Society announces funding for major new cancer research scholarships

Researchers go ‘back to school’ in race to stop cancer

As students begin a new school term this week, the Irish Cancer Society has today announced funding for two new major cancer research scholarships, all made possible through the public’s generous support.

Irish Cancer Society research scholars Dr Conor Murphy and John DalyResearchers Dr Conor Murphy and John Daly have been awarded grants for their projects which will look at ways to treat cancer and survive and thrive after diagnosis.

Based in NUI Galway, John’s research will search for a new, better way to treat multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. Each year in Ireland approximately 250 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma and 170 people die from the disease.

For a cancer patient, doctors use the patient’s Natural Killer (NK) cells to often destroy cancerous cells in the body, aiding recovery. However, for Multiple Myeloma patients, the cancerous cells are a lot harder to spot. This means that it’s a lot harder for NK cells to kill cancerous cells.

John’s research aims to make the NK cells more powerful and effective in killing these multiple myeloma cells. He’ll aim to do this by changing the way in which these NK cells detect multiple myeloma cells, and making them more effective at killing these cancerous cells.

The results of John’s project will give researchers more knowledge of how multiple myeloma cells interact with our immune systems, and has the potential to lead to clinical trials with patients.

More information on multiple myeloma.

Based between UCD and St James’s Hospital, Dublin, Conor’s research will pioneer a personalised approach to dealing with the harsh effects of treatment which an oesophageal cancer patient can go through. Each year in Ireland almost 400 people are diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus (gullet). Approximately 1,000 people in Ireland are currently living with, or have survived, this cancer.

For many oesophageal cancer patients, their treatment will involve the removal of all or part of their oesophagus. Such surgery can have a huge impact on a survivor’s quality of life long after the cancer has gone. In particular, digestive problems can lead to unwanted weight loss.

Conor plans to set up a research clinic in St James's to aid people living with and beyond oesophageal cancer. He anticipates that the clinic will have important benefits for those involved, both physically and emotionally, and can establish a structure for survivorship care that in future can be applied to care post-treatment for a range of cancers where similar problems can arise.

More information on oesophageal cancer.

John was born and raised in Limerick for 12 years before moving to Broadford, Co Clare, where he now resides. He completed his Leaving Certificate at St. Munchin's College, Limerick, and studied Biotechnology at NUI Galway, followed by a masters in research at the Apoptosis Research Centre at NUI Galway.

Conor is a native of Galway, and a graduate of Coláiste Iognáid secondary school. He studied medicine in NUI Galway before moving to Dublin, spending one year as a medical intern in St. Vincent’s University Hospital, followed by a year as a Surgical SHO in St James’s Hospital.

John and Conor were awarded their research grants from the Irish Cancer Society after a competitive and thorough application process, with proposals strenuously vetted and reviewed by an international, external panel of research professionals to ensure the very best research gets funded.

The Irish Cancer Society will continue to monitor Conor and John’s progress throughout their four-year research projects, ensuring their research is carried out to world-class standards.

Commenting on the scholarships announcement, Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “Fostering the development of strong Irish cancer research careers in key to ensuring that Ireland continues to play an ever more important part in efforts to overcome cancer. We want the donations we receive from the public to go towards world-class cancer research, and so have developed a stringent three-tier review process that research applicants must get through before receiving funding for their work. To apply you must be a cancer expert. To be awarded you must stand out in this very competitive field.

“I would like to congratulate John and Conor for their outstanding research proposals, and wish them well for their scholarships. In truth, we received a number of excellent applications. Our review panel commented on the exceptional calibre of several of the top applications that made it to the final selection round. With the public continuing to support us with their generous donations, I hope the Irish Cancer Society will be in a position to work with these talented researchers as we continue the race to stop cancer.”