Date: 
April 22, 2016

John Fitzpatrick Research Fellow to investigate role of cholesterol in prostate cancer

Dr. Emma Allott, a native of Dublin, has been awarded more than €200,000 to investigate the role of cholesterol in prostate cancer under a unique transatlantic cancer research collaboration.

Dr. Allott, who is based in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been awarded the Professor John Fitzpatrick Research Fellowship – a three-year grant award established by the Irish Cancer Society, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to fund an Irish scientist or clinician to undertake high quality research into prostate cancer.

The grant award will fund research to further our understanding and treatment of prostate cancer and will focus specifically on the role of cholesterol and fat metabolism in advanced prostate cancer.

The Fellowship is named in memory of the late Professor John Fitzpatrick, the former Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, who made a significant contribution internationally to research, particularly in the field of prostate cancer.

Over the next three years, Dr. Allott will investigate if high cholesterol levels impact survival rates in men with advanced prostate cancer. More specifically the Research Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina will investigate if reducing cholesterol levels has the potential to improve survival rates when combined with hormonal treatment.

Current treatment options for men with advanced prostate cancer involve blocking hormones called androgens, which drive the development of the cancer. Cholesterol is a building block for these hormones, however, and there is now evidence to suggest that high cholesterol levels may help the tumour override this hormone-blocking action, allowing the cancer to grow and progress.

Through this research, however, Dr. Allott is hoping to identify tumour biomarkers linked with high cholesterol levels that may indicate how well prostate cancer patients will respond to hormonal treatment.

The study will also investigate the potential to improve prostate cancer survival rates by reducing cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, or through cholesterol-lowering medication.

In collaboration with experts from the world-renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, this study will involve analysing the lifestyle and tumour characteristics of more than one thousand Irish and American prostate cancer patients.

The Fellowship, which is supported by Sanofi and Janssen, represents an investment of more than €200,000 in this unique transatlantic cancer research collaboration. In the final year of the Fellowship,

Dr. Allott will return to Ireland to further develop and continue this research in Trinity College Dublin.

The announcement was made at the John Fitzpatrick Prostate Cancer Conference in the Aviva Stadium, where prostate cancer experts from across the globe gathered to share the latest research and advances in treatment and care.

Commenting on the research grant award, Dr. Allott said, “I am excited and honoured to be selected as the first Professor John Fitzpatrick Research Fellow. This award provides a unique and valuable opportunity for me to work as part of a team of internationally-renowned prostate cancer researchers and clinicians to reduce the burden of prostate cancer in Ireland and worldwide”.

Commenting on the announcement of Dr. Allott as the John Fitzpatrick Research Fellow, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, Dr. Robert O’Connor said: “Dr. Allott is part of the next generation of prostate cancer research leaders, whose work will no doubt make a significant contribution to our knowledge and understanding of this challenging disease, which affects almost one in six men in Ireland and the US. This unique transatlantic research fellowship will focus specifically on the role of cholesterol in advanced prostate cancer and explore the potential to improve outcomes for thousands of men on both sides of the Atlantic”.

Associate Professor Christopher Sweeney, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School added, “Dr. Allott is the consummate candidate for this research fellowship award; she is an outstanding Irish prostate cancer researcher, who is gaining overseas experience, and this award will enable her to continue her great work and build bridges with global collaborators on her return to Ireland. Professor Fitzpatrick excelled in advancing the care of men with prostate cancer on the world stage and this award to Dr. Allott is a continuation of his great legacy”.