Departing scholars in 2016

This year a number of the Irish Cancer Society Scholars completed their Scholarship programmes. The departing Scholars have done extremely well and achieved publications and won awards at national and international conferences. James Evans is one of these Scholars; James was awarded the Scholarship in 2012. James recently published a first author paper on his research on prostate cancer.

With over 3000 cases annually in Ireland alone, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men of the western world. When the disease is diagnosed in the prostate itself, the outlook for the patient is promising and can even be curative. However, once the disease spreads, treatment becomes a lot more difficult. The bone is a common site to which prostate cancer can spread causing significant pain and an increased risk of fracture for the patient.

We wanted to look at developing a novel treatment that can target cancer cells that have invaded the bone. To that end, last month we published a paper in Molecular Pharmaceutics collaborating with Professor Fergal O’Brien in RCSI who has developed novel scaffolds that mimic the bone environment.

We were able to grow the prostate cancer cells on these scaffolds and treat them with our gene therapy that we have developed in our lab in UCC. We were able to show that our therapy specifically targeted the prostate cancer cells on the scaffold. We also highlighted the advantages that growing these cells on scaffolds has over growing them on a plastic plate (as we traditionally do in the lab).

It is hoped that these scaffolds will be used to screen drugs and that such models can potentially reduce the number of animals used in research. Having submitted my thesis in September of this year I wanted to say that I am incredibly grateful to the Irish Cancer Society for giving me the opportunity to carry out my PhD in this area and hope that these results will form the foundation for future work on prostate cancer.