Over 200 of the world's top cancer specialists will be in Belfast this week to share their knowledge at an International Cancer Symposium organised by Queen's University.
The event, being hosted by the Centre for Cell Biology and Cancer Research (CCRCB) on Wednesday and Thursday, will be attended by leading academics from across America, Australia and Europe, including those from Harvard Medical School in Boston and from Oxford and Cambridge universities.
One in three people in Northern Ireland will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their life and the conference aims to build on international links to improve cancer treatments for sufferers.
CCRCB is currently carrying out around 50 national and international clinical trials into various cancers with the aim of offering patients new treatment options which will have the best outcomes for them as well as fewer and less severe side effects.
The Centre has three successful spin-out companies - ALMAC Diagnostics, Fusion Antibodies and I-Path - employing nearly 200 people.
Two young researchers will present their studies at the event entitled 'Cancer: Found in Translation'.
Dr Kelly Redmond from Newry and Dr Jenny Quinn from Londonderry will be among the international line-up of speakers sharing their knowledge about the latest developments in cancer research.
Dr Redmond will speak about her research into a molecule called FLIP which blocks chemotherapy from working in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the leading cause of cancer death in the US and Europe. By decreasing FLIP levels in NSCLC cells they become more sensitive to chemotherapy.
She said: "This is an important finding as it suggests that if we can decrease FLIP levels with new types of drugs, the cancer but not the normal lung tissues will be more effectively killed by chemotherapy."
Dr Quinn's research has focused on trying to find the best chemotherapy treatment for both breast and ovarian cancer sufferers.
She has investigated the effects of the drugs on patients with and without the BRCA1 gene, which controls cell growth in normal breast and ovarian cells, preventing tumours forming.
Ovarian cancer patients are generally treated with both platinum and taxane based chemotherapy. However Dr Quinn has found that patients without BRCA1 benefited significantly from platinum only chemotherapy while those with normal BRCA1 levels gained an almost two year improvement in survival if they also received taxane chemotherapy.
Dr Quinn said: "We are now planning further studies that may ultimately lead to the development of a test involving BRCA1 for determining the best chemotherapy treatments for patients with ovarian cancer. Such a test may also prove useful in breast, lung and prostate cancer."
The symposium has been organised by Professor Dennis McCance, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen's University, who leads a team of around 250 staff.
He said: "This event reflects CCRCB's achievements in cancer research and highlights our aspirations to see our knowledge about basic research translated into better and more effective treatments for patients.
"Through clinical trials we are working to offer patients new treatment options which will have the best outcomes for them.
"We are using novel ways to select treatments and personalise or tailor them to the patient's particular mutations.
"The calibre of speakers coming to our conference and the international links that we have formed demonstrate that our work is considered of a world-class standard."
Professor Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University, said: Cancer is a disease feared around the world. Its impact is global. It therefore demands a global response, a response where leading researchers work together across academic disciplines and geographical frontiers.
"We are pleased to bring together leading academics and researchers from across the world to discuss innovative scientific and medical research that will help those who suffer from cancer."
|Contact: Andrea Clements|
Queen's University Belfast