Irish Cancer Society awards 'Cancers With Unmet Needs' research grant to Prof Adrian Bracken

The Irish Cancer Society is delighted to announce that Prof Adrian Bracken is the recipient of the 2020 Cancers With Unmet Needs Translational Research Award. The aim of this award is to provide funding for a translational research project that addresses an issue(s) in a cancer with an unmet need- a cancer that has a lack of effective treatment options and/or a lack of research capacity in the area. The lab of Prof Bracken will undertake important research focused on a rare form of childhood brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).

DIPG typically occurs in young children and is unfortunately not responsive to chemotherapy, and has a median survival time of just 9-months following initial diagnosis. The major unmet need for DIPG patients is to identify effective treatment options. The Bracken lab propose to tackle this problem directly by evaluating new mechanistically anchored therapeutic molecules. 

DIPG is driven by a mutation in a gene called H3K27M. The Bracken lab propose to harness their new molecular insights into how H3K27M drives the cancer, to identify the most appropriate drugs to treat patients. 

Part of this project will evaluate two new therapeutic targets that are capable of blocking the function of the H3K27M cancer gene. The aim is that this will contribute to pinpointing more effective and targeted therapies for children with DIPG.

About the researcher: Professor Adrian Bracken

Prof Bracken received his BSc degree from University College Dublin and his PhD from Trinity College Dublin. Following his PhD, he held Postdoctoral Fellowships with Prof Kristian Helin at the European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy and the Biotechnology and Research Innovation Centre at The University of Copenhagen, Denmark. During these post-doctorate years, he gained an international reputation for making seminal contributions to our understanding of how a group genes, called Polycombs, contribute to stem and cancer cell biology.

In 2008, Adrian became an Assistant Professor at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin and started his independent lab. Since then, his lab has published on the roles of chromatin regulators in stem cells and cancer in many high impact journals such as in Nature Structure & Molecular Biology and Molecular Cell. His lab’s research program focuses on understanding the mechanisms that regulate chromatin structure and gene expression. In particular, the lab aims to discover how these processes support oncogenic transcriptional programs in cancer cells.

His lab has also translated their research. They developed and patented "OncoMasTR”, which is a method of predicting risk of recurrence in cancer. This was in-licensed to an Irish company called OncoMark, who developed it as a diagnostic kit.

Notably, in 2019, Adrian was one of 12 researchers in Ireland awarded the prestigious Irish Research Council Advanced Laureate Award.

Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Medical Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, Theme lead of Cancer Genomics and Precision Medicine at the SFI Centre for Research Training in Genomics Data Science and Precision Medicine Research Theme Lead at the Trinity St. James's Cancer Institute.