Catriona Dowling

Lung cancer researcher Dr Catriona Dowling – ‘It’s an honour to do something you love every day’

Lung cancer researcher Dr Catriona Dowling had been doing her undergraduate degree in science teaching 12 years ago when her family was sadly rocked by cancer.

“I lost my aunt to cancer at that time, and it was then that I became extremely interested in the topic,” explains the University of Limerick researcher, who wanted to use her skills to try to help prevent the same fate befalling others.

It started her on a road that took her to a leading New York research facility famed for its expertise in lung cancer.

But the proud Kerrywoman always knew she would come back to share her insights and help improve the lives of patients in Ireland.

At the moment she is studying an aggressive form of non-small cell lung cancer. More specifically, she is targeting KRAS-driven non-small cell lung cancer which is notoriously hard to treat, and patients currently have very few options once diagnosed.

Dr Dowling believes that the combination of a therapy recently approved by the US Food & Drug Administration with another that targets a particular protein important for non-small cell lung cancer can provide new hope for such patients.

With the help of funding from the Irish Cancer Society and the Health Research Board she is aiming to eventually progress this to a clinical trial, with the ultimate goal of pioneering a new and more effective way of treating this condition.

For Dr Dowling, the advancement of innovative new clinical trials and research projects in Ireland is absolutely crucial.

“It was the Irish Cancer Society who first gave me my scholarship to carry out my PhD and they’re contributing funding to this project now, so it was definitely them who made this journey possible for me.

“It’s a really good time for Ireland in the lung cancer space, there’s a lot of energy around it at the moment which is a great thing.

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As a scientist seeing my work being translated into a clinical setting and making a difference to patients’ lives, that’s what gives me my passion and that’s what got me into this career in the first place over a decade ago.

Lung cancer researcher Dr Catriona Dowling
Catriona Dowling 2

“I always say to people that it’s an honour to get up in the morning and do something that you love every day.”

Alongside working with other leading researchers in the Irish Lung Cancer Alliance Dr Dowling is proud to have played a key role in the Irish Lung Cancer Community, a lung cancer patient advocacy group that gives patients a voice in contributing to the direction of research in this country.

“Medical staff and scientists working side-by-side is something we’re starting to see in Ireland, and that really is what will drive progress. We have to have clinical trials, we have to get access to new drugs for patients here and we need to fund those projects.

“It’s not fair if patients don’t have access to drugs that could make a difference for them, and that’s where trials are so crucial. It’s so hard for a relative who may have lost someone to cancer knowing that if they had access to newer therapies it potentially could have saved their life.

“I saw a doctor present at a conference who talked about a patient who she put on a clinical trial, and she’s now seen her daughter get married and her grandchild being born. That’s the difference it can make.”

The work of Irish Cancer Society funded researchers is made possible through the kind support of the public.

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