Date: 
October 11, 2018

Researcher in Focus: Prof Darran O’Connor

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month taking place this October, our Researcher in Focus is Prof Darran O’Connor, a funded investigator with BREAST-PREDICT, the Irish Cancer Society’s breast cancer research collaboration.

Prof O’Connor is an Associate Professor of Molecular Oncology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, where he now leads a research group in the Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics department. Having obtained his PhD in Trinity College Dublin, he conducted postdoctoral training in Columbia University, New York and at the University of Glasgow, before returning to Ireland as a HRB Postdoctoral Fellow and a Senior Research Fellow & Lecturer in Cancer Biology in UCD before his current role in RCSI.

As well as receiving Irish Cancer Society funding through BREAST-PREDICT, Prof O’Connor also received a €647,925 Career Development Award from Science Foundation Ireland in 2016. The award funds a four-year project, ‘HER CHOICE: development of a prototype decision support tool for Her2+ breast cancer’. This focusses on personalised treatment – tailoring drug therapies in response to each patient’s individual cancer. He aims to develop a computational tool to allow doctors to determine the right drugs for each breast cancer patient by storing data about the individual tumour and the effect of certain therapies on it.

In advancing his breast cancer research and personalised treatment development, Prof O’Connor has just been awarded $448,480 from the prestigious Susan G. Komen Foundation to study a possible new treatment for a form of estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer called invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC). His research so far suggests that some ILC patients who do not respond to anti-hormone therapy would benefit from using a new type of drug called a “BET inhibitor”. The Susan G Komen-funded project will confirm whether BET inhibitors are a useful treatment option for ILC patients and which drugs we need to combine them with to reach the best outcome for ILC patients. If successful, he expects to initiate a clinical trial of BET inhibitors in ILC patients who are not responding to anti-hormone treatment by the end of the research program.

Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest breast cancer organisation. Komen has funded more than $988 million in research and provided more than $2.2 billion in funding to screening, education, treatment and psychosocial support programs serving millions of people in more than 60 countries worldwide.

The Irish Cancer Society congratulates Prof O’Connor on his recent success. It highlights the value and calibre of cancer researchers that the Irish Cancer Society invests in on behalf of the public who support this vital work.

As part of its Cups Against Breast Cancer fundraising campaign, the Society is urging members of the public to host a fundraising coffee morning during the month of October. Money raised will help fund lifesaving research and free services including Daffodil Centres and the Freephone Cancer Nurseline. For more information on Cups Against Breast Cancer see www.cancer.ie/cupsagainstcancer.