Irish Cancer Society Research Awards 2016

Top honours for researchers at Irish Cancer Society Research Awards

Congratulations to cancer researchers Mairéad Cooney and Maria Prencipe who went home with the top prizes at the 2016 Irish Cancer Society Research Awards.

The awards, held on Thursday, December 1 in the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Centre, Trinity College Dublin, recognised some of the vital work being undertaken by researchers funded by the Irish Cancer Society.

We're the leading investor in cancer research in Ireland, and currently we fund 84 researchers across the country in the areas of cancer prevention, detection, treatment and survivorship.

Mairéad, a PhD student at DCU and native of Navan, Co Meath, picked up the PhD Researcher of the Year award for her work, which focussed on the promotion of physical activity among people living with, or who have survived, cancer.

As part of her project, Mairéad carried out an initial study which found that most healthcare professionals believed in the value of physical activity for patients but experienced challenges in its promotion, including lack of time and resources.

A follow-up study of patients found that many felt isolated after their treatment, had limited access to exercise advice and services, and found getting active to be difficult for them.

Mairéad’s research highlights the need to develop effective ways to support individuals living with and beyond cancer to remain active in the long term.

She now plans to develop individualised self-management plans for the development of long-term physical activity among cancer patients and survivors.

Maria, a post-doctoral researcher in UCD and native of Italy, took home the Post-Doctoral Researcher of the Year award for her project which looks at metastatic prostate cancer patients, whose cancer cells have spread from the prostate to other organs.

One reason why prostate cancer cells survive treatment is the Serum Response Factor (SRF). Maria’s work showed that patients who did not respond to current treatments had much more SRF.

Maria has found that a new drug which blocks SRF can stop the cancer cells from dividing and surviving. When this drug is used in combination with current treatments, these are more effective in killing cancer cells.

The findings are currently being tested in pre-clinical models in collaboration with the University of Washington.

Following these experiments, it is hoped that the new drug will be available to prostate cancer patients in the near future.

Maria and Mairead were two of six finalists who pitched their projects to a packed audience of family, friends and Irish Cancer Society supporters. In announcing the awards, the judging panel commended all six for their strong communications skills in highlighting the importance of their work.

Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, highlighted the importance of communication as a tool for keeping the public aware of vital research which their donations fund:

“None of the vital research we fund would be possible without the support of the public. Since 2010 the Irish Cancer Society has invested €20 million into cancer research, so it’s really important that our funded researcher can show the public the impact their work is having.  Just like the Irish Cancer Society, our researchers won’t give up until cancer does.”

Pictured above are our six finalists: (Back, L to R) Dr Damir Vareslija, RCSI; Silvin Knight, TCD (Front, L to R) Dr Aideen Ryan, NUI Galway; Maria Prencipe, UCD; Mairéad Cooney, DCU; and Lisa Dwane, RCSI.