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Professor William Gallagher

Rational Therapy for Breast Cancer

Professor William (Liam) Gallagher is a very experienced Framework grant holder having held a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship at AVENTIS Pharma (now part of Sanofi-Aventis group) in Paris under FP5. Afterwards, he returned to Ireland upon receipt of an Enterprise Ireland Post-Doctoral Fellowship (1999-2000) and, subsequently, a Marie Curie Return Fellowship (2000-2001) again under FP5. Under FP6 Liam co-ordinated a Marie Curie Transfer of Knowledge Industry-Academia Partnership Programme, Target-Breast, which ran from 2006-2010 (www.targetbreast.com) and was focused on converting omic data relating to breast cancer into clinically relevant assays. At the same time, he was also a partner in an integrated project InnoMed, which involves a large-scale cross-disciplinary partnership between industry and academia to solve key bottlenecks in the drug development process with a particular focus on safety and efficacy biomarkers.

Liam currently coordinates two FP7 Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnership and Pathways (IAPP) Programmes, namely (1) Target-Melanoma which runs from 2009-2013 (www.targetmelanoma.com) which is centred on identification and validation of novel genetic and epigenetic determinants of melanoma progression and (2) FAST-PATH which runs from 2011-2015, which is focused on the development and application of automated image analysis approaches, combined with high-performance computing, to fast-track grading and prognostic determination in prostate cancer.

Moreover he is co-ordinator of a large scale FP7 Health collaborative project, called RATHER which is focused on providing new rationalised therapy options for difficult-to-treat breast cancer sub-types (http://www.ratherproject.com). He is also a partner on an additional IAPP programme AngioTox (www.angiotox.com) and Co-operation Health collaborative programme, AngioPredict, which are focused on safety and efficacy biomarkers in the context of angiogenesis and inhibitor therapy respectively.

On his return to Ireland, Liam received funding from the HRB for Programme, Project and equipment grants. A major focus of Liam?s research work is the identification and validation of candidate markers of breast cancer and melanoma, with particular emphasis on translation of transcriptomic and proteomic datasets into clinically relevant assays. In 2007, he also co-founded the molecular diagnostics spin-out company, OncoMark, which is focused on the development, validation and commercialisation of prognostic and predictive assays (www.oncomark.com). OncoMark is also involved in multiple EU projects.

 

Schematic of Project

The RATHER project which began in January 2011 is funded for five years and the consortium consists of 6 academic groups and 2 industrial parties across 5 EU countries. One of the academic partners (UCD) and one of the industry partners (OncoMark) are from Ireland. This project is worth almost €6 million and will focus on several key aspects of breast cancer research.

In particular, the project will investigate two specific difficult-to-treat subtypes of breast cancer, namely:

· Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) a type of cancer that arises within the milk-producing lobules of the breast accounts for approximately 10% of cases of breast cancer globally.

· Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) a subtype that lacks the estrogen, progesterone and HER2 receptors accounts for approximately 15% of cases.

At present, no targeted therapies are available for either of these diseases.

The RATHER consortium aims to better our understanding of these cancers by applying state-of-the-art investigative molecular profiling techniques to 300 clinical samples from patients with these diseases (150 ILC and 150 TNBC), as well as representative cell line models of these subtypes. These samples will be examined in fine detail using a wide variety of technology platforms. This research will enable the consortium to identify the fundamental differences between normal and diseased breast tissue. The consortium's hope is that some of these differences/alterations will prove to be drivers of disease -meaning that they are involved in causing the disease, as opposed to being random side-effects of the condition. Identifying driver alterations is an important step in the fight against cancer, since they represent promising therapeutic targets.

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