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Leading consultants get €6.5m to support dedicated research time
Tuesday 15 May 2007

Prof John Crown
Professor John Crown

Professor John Crown, the Thomas Baldwin Chair in Translational Cancer Research at DCU and a Consultant Medical Oncologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital, was one of the four leading Irish consultants awarded a total of €6.5 million by the Health Research Board (HRB) to dedicate a significant portion of their time to conducting research in their specialised field over the next five years.

Professor Crown, aims to use his research time to improve and develop our knowledge and use of targeted molecular therapies for breast cancer.

‘Our research programme will analyse samples from breast cancer patients we have enrolled in clinical trials to identify markers that will predict response or resistance to certain therapies’, says Prof Crown. ‘One of our projects will focus on a subset of patients who have ‘triple negative’ breast cancer, which in simple terms means these patients are not responsive to current treatments. We hope to develop new treatment strategies and ultimately improve the outcomes for these patients’, he explains.

‘Another challenge facing society is the cost of new cancer therapies. We will also attempt to develop strategies to improve the cost effectiveness of treatments,’ he says.

The four consultants, who will become HRB Clinician Scientists, are unique in the community of health researchers, providing the link between clinical practice, the discovery of disease mechanisms and new diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. ‘Patients need to be confident that they are receiving the best care from people who have the latest knowledge in their area of expertise,’ said Ruth Barrington, Chief Executive at the HRB. ‘These HRB Clinician Scientists can help meet this demand. They already have a strong and internationally competitive track record in research even though they didn’t have protected time. We believe the outcomes of their research will have a positive impact on people’s health both in Ireland and internationally’.

Since Prof John Crown's return to Dublin, he has revolutionised breast cancer research, in particular translational cancer research, linking findings from laboratory research with patient treatment. His clinical and nursing colleagues in St Vincent Hospital, including pathologist Dr Susan Kennedy and Dr. Michael Moriarty and Clinical Trials Team Leader, Jo Ballot have assisted him in this. Scientists at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology in DCU have also played a critical role in the development of this translational cancer research programme, including Dr Norma O'Donovan, Dr Robert O'Connor, Dr Lorraine O'Driscoll and Prof. Martin Clynes. Prof Crown is also instrumental in building a wider clinical trials network in collaboration with Dr Brian Molton, Dr John Kennedy and colleagues in ICORG.

‘The Clinician Scientist Scheme is a ground breaking initiative and through this, the HRB are developing a revolutionary model for clinical investigation,’ said Professor Crown. ‘I am now able to commit more time to developing our translational research programme with my colleagues at DCU and to leading and developing translational breast cancer clinical trials nationally with ICORG, the Irish Cancer Oncology Research Group. This is a major step forward.’

Dr Lorraine Kyne, a Consultant Physician in Medicine for the older person at the Mater Hospital and University College Dublin, Dr Orla Hardiman, Consultant Neurologist in Beaumont Hospital and Trinity College Dublin, and Dr Louise Kenny in Cork University Maternity Hospital and UCC are three other renowned consultants who will share in this research award.