Researcher in Focus: Dr Aideen Ryan
As part of her Irish Cancer Society sponsored research, Aideen recently undertook a three-month research sabbatical at Prof Balkwill’s Laboratory, Bart’s Cancer Institute (BCI), Queen Mary University London. Prof Balkwill leads the Centre for Cancer and Inflammation and the Cytokine and Cancer group within that Centre. Prof Balkwill is a world leading researcher in cancer and inflammation and her research discoveries have formed the basis of clinical trials in targeting inflammation in ovarian cancer. More recently, Prof. Balkwill’s lab have been establishing cutting edge 3D models to study the interactions between cancer cells, stroma and immune cells in vitro.
The opportunity to work alongside world leading experts in 3 dimensional (3D) modelling of cancer and inflammation has been immensely beneficial to Aideen’s professional role as an early stage researcher, cancer research advisor and lecturer at NUI Galway.
“As an immunology researcher, I am particularly interested in knowledge of how the way immune cells communicate within tumours could be modelled in a culture dish in 3D. With the advent of immunotherapeutic treatment of cancer this is likely to be an important aspect to incorporate into cancer research models in the future. I have been successful in building collaborative networks with tumour immunologists, chemists, bioengineers and clinicians. I attended workshops on 3D model development, bio-printing and the tumour microenvironment, and joined the ‘Organ-on–a-chip Technologies network’. Through this network, in collaboration with Dr Daniella Loessner, an expert in using interdisciplinary approaches to develop 3D models, we have been granted funding to continue our collaborative colorectal cancer 3D model project.
“As a mentor, I will now be able to establish this state of the art technique at NUI Galway which will open opportunities for postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows to learn and use these cutting edge technologies in my lab”.
“As a teacher, I believe this experience will contribute to the development of new skills in communicating evidence based research in cancer and inflammation to undergraduate and postgraduate students. I am better equipped to discuss and inform researchers in NUI Galway on evidence based strategies for modelling 3D tumour environments and international best practices”.
“Overall, I have gained scientific knowledge and technical expertise that will inform the direction and execution of my research programme in understanding how best to use immunotherapy to treat colon cancer. Having this opportunity to travel to an international lab through the Irish Cancer Society mobility grant has expanded my international research network, increased the impact of my research and resulted in further research funding, far beyond what I expected. I would highly recommend applying for funding opportunities to travel to international labs to work with world leading experts and to learn new technologies. You never know where it may lead…….”
Dr. Aideen Ryan is a Research Lecturer in Tumour Immunology at National University of Ireland, Galway and a Funded Investigator in CÚRAM, SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices. Aideen has spent the last 9 years working in the area of colon cancer immunology and inflammation research. Aideen leads a group of researchers whose focus is to understand barriers to the effective use of immunotherapy in advanced colon cancer. Aideen’s research has specific relevance and potential implications for the treatment of a range of diseases including cancer, auto-immunity and transplantation. She has also secured highly competitive research funding from Irish Cancer Society, Science Foundation Ireland, Irish Research Council, as well as through International Industry collaborations.