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Press Release

Press release

Ministers for Health and Research announce ?3million funding for four health research projects

7 June 2011

Superbugs, heart attacks and various cancers all targeted in key projects. Dr James Reilly T.D., Minster for Health, and Mr Seán Sherlock T.D., Minister for Research and Innovation, have today (Wednesday, June 8th 2011) jointly announced funding awards for four research projects to be supported through the Health Research Board (HRB) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) which will aid patient well-being.

Under the 'Translational Research Award' programme, the HRB and SFI will co-fund four exceptional research groups as part of a joint investment of ?3 million. The groups have been selected due the potential of the research for producing health benefits and economic development in Ireland.

Speaking at the announcement of the Translational Research Awards, Minister Reilly said,

'The Translational Research Award initiative focuses on areas most likely to generate results and benefits for health and long-term economic development. Research leading to informed action is crucial. Knowledge derived from research is paramount in providing the evidence-base for better health policies and systems; systems that underpin effective and efficient health service provision. In addition, it strives to encourage and reward more efficient and effective collaboration between academics and healthcare professionals engaged in translational research. The funding announced today will help to speed up the translation of these promising research ideas into real world outcomes and benefits'.

Also addressing the event, Minister Sherlock said,

'A core objective of the Translational Research Award programme is to increase support for internationally-competitive research in Ireland. The focus is on bringing scientific researchers and clinicians closer together to deliver health benefits to patients. This can be achieved by converting basic research findings into innovative strategies, products or services that assist in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of human diseases and infections such as superbugs, heart attacks and cancer. Furthermore, some of these research projects involve active collaborations with multinational healthcare and pharmaceutical companies engaged in the development of novel diagnostics and drugs. We must continue to work together to ensure that the discoveries made in Irish labs are translated into health and economic benefits'.

The four successful projects under the HRB-SFI 'Translation Research Award' Programme are:

  1. Mechanism of Benefit and Clinical Efficacy of Low Dose Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 in Acute Myocardial Infarct Repair
    Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, University College Cork. Professor Rosemary O'Connor, Professor of Cell Biology, Head of Department of Biochemistry, University College Cork.
    Lay summary: Evaluate safety and efficacy of new treatment that can repair heart muscle after heart attack
  2. Inhibition of PARP in Women with Sporadic Ovarian Cancer
    Dr Bryan Hennessy, Senior Lecturer, RCSI and Consultant Medical Oncologist, Beaumont Hospital. Dr Liam Grogan, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Beaumont Hospital.
    Lay summary: The development of a novel diagnostic tool for predicting responsiveness of ovarian cancer patients to a new class of therapeutics.
  3. Validating a panel of serum biomarkers to inform surgical intervention for Prostate Cancer
    Professor William Watson, Associate Professor of Cancer Biology, UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science; Professor John Fitzpatrick, Professor of Surgery, UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science and Mater Hospital.
    Lay summary: A web-based test to identify the grade and stage of prostate cancer which should reduce unnecessary diagnostic procedures and improve overall treatment
  4. Improved methods to detect and decontaminate environmental sources of healthcare-associated infection
    Professor Hilary Humphreys, RCSI, Department of Clinical Microbiology & Beaumont Hospital. Dr Stephen Daniels, Executive Director of the National Centre for Plasma Science and Technology, Dublin City University.
    Lay summary: Potential for a new commercial device that can kill hospital superbugs
Ends

For more information contact:
Gillian Markey, Communications Manager
Health Research Board
m 00353 87 2288514
t 00353 1 2345103
e gmarkey(at)hrb.ie

Notes for Editors:

The announcement took place at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), Dublin 2

Summary description of the projects supported
Mechanism of Benefit and Clinical Efficacy of Low Dose Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 in Acute Myocardial Infarct Repair

Noel Caplice, Rosemary O'Connor

Heart attack in humans is a major cause of long-term heart failure. The current therapies available have improved outcome in patients but there remains a significant group of people that progress to heart failure despite best medical therapy. The researchers have recently identified in a large animal model of heart attack that administration of a single dose of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is sufficient to repair the heart whereby heart function returns to near normal levels within 2 months of therapy.

The purpose of this proposal is to determine the mechanism of this effect and to develop markers of IGF-1 effects that can be detected in a blood sample taken from human subjects after treatment with IGF-1. A clinical trial is also planned in which IGF-1 at two doses will be given to patients with heart attack who have poor heart function after their coronary artery has been successfully opened by a stent. This treatment will be compared to placebo (no active treatment) in a randomized and blinded fashion (i.e. neither the patient nor the doctor will know which treatment is active).

The main purpose of the study will be to evaluate safety of the therapy and, in addition, efficacy of treatment will be assessed by cardiac magnetic resonance scanning at 24 hours and 8 weeks after heart attack.

The future potential of this proposal is that sufficient human and experimental data is generated to determine the utility of proceeding to a large clinical trial in which efficacy of IGF-1 can be more definitively determined and where additional markers of drug effect can assist in trial design. Of particular significance is the commercial potential of this work. The low-dose IGF1 therapy proposed here is highly advantageous given that IGF1 is already approved in USA and Europe at a much higher dose (50,000 fold) for subcutaneous use in small stature children there are likely to be minimal regulatory hurdles to use of LD-IGF1 at nanogram doses.

Inhibition of PARP in Women with Sporadic Ovarian Cancer

Bryan Hennessy, Liam Grogan

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes prevent normal cells from becoming cancerous. Therefore, women who are born with mutations or abnormalities in these genes are at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Inherited mutations in these genes occur in approximately 13% of women with ovarian cancer. Early clinical trials suggest that a new class of drugs called Poly-(ADP-ribose)-polymerase-1 (PARP) inhibitors are very active in women with ovarian cancer who were born with mutations in these genes. The researchers have shown that BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations and other abnormalities are present in at least 14% of ovarian cancers in women who were not born with mutations in one or both of the these genes. It is reasonable to hypothesize that these women will also benefit from treatment with new PARP inhibitor drugs and thus that a considerably higher proportion of women with ovarian cancer than currently thought may benefit from treatment with these new drugs. The research aims to:

  • Identify in the researcher's laboratory all molecular abnormalities in ovarian cancer that are associated with benefit from new PARP inhibitor drugs.
  • Determine how well women with ovarian cancer that have these molecular abnormalities respond to currently available treatments.
  • Determine if these molecular abnormalities lead to benefit from new PARP inhibitor drugs in a clinical trial in women with ovarian cancer.
Validating a panel of serum biomarkers to inform surgical intervention for Prostate Cancer

William Watson, John Fitzpatrick

Due to the dilemmas associated with the detection and treatment of Prostate cancer, it represents a significant health care problem, especially when there is a projected increase in its incidence over the next 10 years. The research team, who have been working together and publishing on biomarker discovery for the last three years, will further develop their collaboration to bring the fruits of their interaction into a study to determine if a panel of serum biomarkers have clinical use.

This panel will address an important clinical question of determining grade and stage of disease. These markers, combined with the current clinical parameters, will inform the clinician and patient as to the appropriateness of surgical intervention. This will impact on the patient's outcome and quality of life and also alleviate the pressures on our already overburdened healthcare sector by treating the patients in an appropriate way, preventing wasteful diagnostics procedures such as biopsies, and having a better outcome for patients so that other treatment strategies do not need to be undertaken.

The central hypothesis is that a panel of proteins in combination with the current clinical parameters can be used to predict more accuracy low verses high-grade and organ-confined and non-organ-confined disease and thus determine patients suitability for surgical intervention. This hypothesis is supported by published and preliminary data generated by the group. Central to achieving the proposed web-based, clinically-applicable predictive tool are the international collaborators who will undertake the independent external validation of the panel required before commercial development can occur.

Improved methods to detect and decontaminate environmental sources of healthcare-associated infection

Hilary Humphreys, Stephen Daniels

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) affect 5-10% of patients admitted to hospital. These include bloodstream, urinary and wound infections and cause patient suffering, sometimes even death, and are costly to the health service. Preventing HCAI is a priority of the Health Service Executive and strategies to achieve this include improved hospital hygiene. However, questions remain about the assessment of hygiene, especially the rapid and accurate detection of specific causes of HCAI such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the hospital environment and how to effectively decontaminate clinical areas, especially hard to clean surfaces such as bed frames.

With colleagues in the US, UK and Germany, the researchers will assess in vitro and on hospital wards the sensitivity and specificity of conventional culture techniques using different approaches to detect overall environmental contamination, and will optimise rapid culture and polymerase chain reaction-based techniques to detect the presence of important causes of HCAI such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and C. difficile. Current decontamination processes such as chemical disinfectants are sub-optimal. Other alternatives such as hydrogen peroxide are toxic, disruptive to patient care and logistically difficult to use.

There is a need for new, effective, rapid and feasible approaches to decontamination in hospitals. The research results will inform national strategies on hospital hygiene through the development of improved approaches to hospital environmental assessment. Furthermore, the involvement of the researchers with industry partners and the application of gaseous plasma at home and abroad through the collaborators, will have significant commercial benefits.

 

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