Tuesday, 25 September 2018

NUI Galway Study Discovers Novel Approach to Tackle Bowel Cancer

NUI Galway Study Discovers Novel Approach to Tackle Bowel Cancer   Scientists from the Regenerative Medicine Institute in the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, in collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast, have found a new function for normal cells, called stromal cells, within tumours that point the way in better understaning and preciction of response to immunotherapy. The study has been published in the internationally renowned journal,Cancer Immunology Research.   Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting both men and women in Ireland. Current treatments can combine radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy, but response rates in late stage disease can be disappointing. To date, therapeutic developments to tackle the problem of bowel cancer spreading to other parts of the body have had limited success and new methods are urgently needed to improve survival for patients.   Immunotherapy is a new form of treatment where different medicines or cells can re-engineer a patient’s immune system to better target cancer cells for destruction. In some forms of cancer, immunotherapy has led to marked improvements in patient outcome for particular patients. Cancer cells can express substances to cloak themselves from attack from the immune system. These protein substances are a usually a vital part of regulating why the normal immune system doesn’t attack all cells but these normal protective mechanisms can be hijacked in tumours protecting the cancer from damage.  Immunotherapy attempts to overcome these hijacked systems and allow the immune system to kill cancer cells.   While these treatments hold potential for improving the treatment of therapy-resistant cancers with potentially fewer side effects, in general colon cancers respond poorly. The research findings indicate that normal stromal cells which surround a tumour could potentially contribute to that protective cloaking from the immune system and simultaneously drive the dangerous spread of these cells to other parts of the body.   By combining laboratory models with patient samples, the research team, led by Dr Aideen Ryan in the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, has shown for the first time that PD-L1 (one of the protein substances involved in cloaking cells and tumours from the immune system), is expressed not only on the tumour cells but also on the normal stromal cells within the tumour. The expression of PD-L1 by these stromal cells essentially “switches off” the killing activities of the immune system, even before it reaches the cancer cells. The expression of stromal cell PD-L1 is even higher, in certain conditions such as inflammation, which can occur within the tumour. The combination of the cloaking processes in the stromal cells and tumour reduces the chances of the immune system killing the cancer cells and can drive these cells to spread and metastasise.   Using colon cancer cells and either normal or tumour exposed stromal cells, the research team found that blocking PD-L1 signalling increased the production of immune activating signals and increased the number of tumour killing T cells. Furthermore, in a pre-clinical model of colon cancer, anti-PD-1 therapy reversed the ability of tumours to grow and metastasize, increasing the effectiveness of anti-tumor T cells. In human samples, PD-L1 expression was observed to be higher in stromal cells exposed to human tumours than in the tumour cells themselves. Additionally, in tissue from two small groups of colon cancer patients, they confirmed higher expression of PD-L1 in the stromal cells compared to the colon cancer cells. This is an important finding as patients are currently chosen to receive this therapy based only on if the tumour cells express PD-L1 or not.   Lead author of the study, Dr Aideen Ryan from the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, said: “This study proposes a change in thinking. Until now, if we wanted to know whether a colon cancer patient was likely to respond to immunotherapy, we would look at their tumour cells. This study has shown us that instead of just looking at the tumour cells we need to look at the environment surrounding the tumour as well.  Our findings address previous observations of positive anti-tumor responses to PD-1 immunotherapy in patients whose tumours have been deemed PD-L1 negative. Our findings  provide a clear motivation to assess stromal cell PD-L1 expression in order to better choose patients for immunotherapy.”   Dr Ryan added: “Our future research will investigate the exact ways by which the colon cancer cells interact with and dictate the function of noraml stroma within tumours to prevent recognition by immune cells. Understanding exactly how this happens may help to discover new ways in which we can prevent this, and enhance responses to new immune based therapy.”   Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research at Irish Cancer Society, commented:“This important study illustrates the extent of cutting-edge cancer research being undertaken by hugely talented scientists across Ireland. The findings by Dr Ryan and her colleagues are significant because they may point the way to much needed new applications of immune-based treatments for bowel and possibly other forms of cancer. Such findings are only made possible through many years of investment in high calibre researchers like Dr Ryan and her colleagues and we need continued support to generate further advances in our improving cancer outcome.   The study was supported by Science Foundation Ireland, Irish Cancer Society, Irish Research Council, and Galway University Foundation.   To read the full study in Cancer Immunology Research, visit: http://cancerimmunolres.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2018/09/18/2326-6066.CIR-17-0443   -Ends-


News Archive

Friday, 21 September 2018

Tá tionscadal taighde lucht éisteachta bunaithe ag RTÉ i gcomhpháirt le hOllscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.  Beidh sé d’aidhm ag Fios Físe tuairimí Phobal Labhartha na Gaeilge i leith RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta a fhiosrú.  Seo é an chéad uair a mbeidh tuairimí spriocphobal an chraoltóra á fhiosrú ar bhonn leanúnach.  Is faoi scáth Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge a bheidh an tionscadal á reáchtáil. Earcófar Painéal de 500 cuiditheoir a bheidh ionadach ar Phobal Labhartha na Gaeilge ar fud na hÉireann, thuaidh agus theas.  Áireofar critéir theangeolaíocha, thíreolaíocha agus dhéimeagrafacha i gcomhdhéanamh bhallraíocht an Phainéil.  Líonfaidh na cuiditheoirí suirbhé ar líne go seachtainiúil agus cuirfear torthaí an taighde faoi bhráid RTÉ go tráthrialta.  Beidh stórchiste luachmhar faisnéise ar fáil chun críche taighde d’Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, go háirithe i gcomhthéacs chlár léinn an Acadaimh sna Meáin Chumarsáide. Chuir Gearóid Mac Donncha, Ceannaire Gníomhach RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, fáilte mhór roimh an togra, agus dúirt sé gur mór an chabhair a bheadh ann ó thaobh pleanála agus stiúradh na seirbhíse de sna blianta amach romhainn. “Cuirfidh an t-aiseolas rialta faoin gcraoladh, agus an anailís ar an lucht éisteachta, a bheidh ar fáil dúinn anois a bhuíochas do Fios Físe go mór leis an obair a bhíonn idir lámha againn ó thaobh reáchtáil na seirbhíse de.  Tabharfaidh sé léargas níos fearr dúinn ar mhianta an phobail éisteachta, sa Ghaeltacht agus lasmuigh di, agus beidh muid in ann feidhmiú dá réir.  Is eolas é seo a bhí in easnamh orainn, go pointe, go dtí seo, agus tá sé i gceist againn anois leas a bhaint as chun tairbhe éisteoirí RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta." “Comhlánóidh an clár nua seo an taighde lucht féachana atá ar siúl againn ó 2013 do TG4 agus tógann sé ar an tsamhail oibriúcháin a bunaíodh i gcomhar le TG4 don taighde ag an am,” a deir Stiúrthóir an Tionscadail Séamas Ó Concheanainn.  Ceapadh an Dr Eilís Ní Dhúill mar Thaighdeoir Iardhochtúireachta le Fios Físe le gairid. Tá Meamram Comhthuisceana freisin sínithe idir OÉ Gaillimh agus RTÉ chun clár nua MA (Cleachtas Gairmiúil sna Meáin) a chur ar fáil, le béim ar an bhfoghlaim phraiticbhunaithe trí mheán na Gaeilge i stiúideonna éagsúla de chuid RTÉ. Cuirfidh an tAcadamh an MA ar fáil ó Mheán Fómhair 2018. Beidh sé ar fáil ar bhonn lán ama agus go páirtaimseartha. Clár léinn nuálach agus solúbtha é seo ina bhfuil meascán den staidéar acadúil ar líne agus tréimhsí suntasacha i mbun taithí oibre phraiticbhunaithe  in RTÉ san iriseoireacht, sa chraoltóireacht agus i gcruthú ábhair don raidió, don teilifís, agus d’ardáin éagsúla ar líne. “I measc na ndúshlán atá ag RTÉ i leith ár n-aschur Gaeilge, tá ár lucht éisteachta agus ar ár lucht féachana a aithint go soiléir, le gur féidir linn an freastal is fearr a dhéanamh orthu, agus freisin cumasú a dhéanamh ar dhaoine a bheidh ag obair sna meáin amach anseo le gur féidir linn an soláthar ar ard-chaighdeán a dhéanann RTÉ ar sheirbhísí Gaeilge a chinntiú don todhchaí.  Léiríonn an obair atá á déanamh ag RTÉ agus OÉ Gaillimh ina leith seo an luach ollmhór a bhaineann le comhpháirtíocht, agus an tábhacht a bhaineann le tógáil ar an deá-chaidreamh idir an dá eagraíocht.” a deir Grúpcheannasaí Gaeilge RTÉ, Rónán Mac Con Iomaire. Dúirt Riarthóir Aonad Léann na Cumarsáide, an Dr Uinsionn Mac Dubhghaill, go bhfuil “an clár léinn ag freastal ar éilimh ó mhic léinn ar chláir iarchéime a bhfuil naisc láidre acu le fostóirí agus leis an margadh.” CRÍOCH NUI Galway and RTÉ form a new partnership on a National Irish-Language Audience Research Programme and a new MA programme NUI Galway has established a new Irish language audience research initiative in partnership with RTÉ.  Fíos Físe will investigate the reach, satisfaction levels and listening habits of Irish speakers, on the island of Ireland, with regard to RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. It is the first time that the views of Raidió na Gaeltachta’s core target audience will be investigated on a regular and ongoing basis. The project will be run by Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge. An audience research panel of 500 contributors, representative of the Irish speaking population throughout Ireland, north and south, will be recruited. Linguistic, geographical and demographic criteria will inform the composition of this panel. Participants will complete a weekly online survey,  the results of which will be submitted to RTÉ on a regular basis. This research will be of significant value to NUI Galway, particularly in the context of Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge’s teaching and research programme in Irish-language broadcasting. Gearóid Mac Donncha, Acting Head of RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, welcomed the proposal, and said that it would assist greatly in the planning and management of the service in the coming years, "Regular feedback regarding the broadcast service, and audience analysis, which will be available to us now, will greatly enhance service delivery. It will give us a better insight into listener preferences, within the Gaeltacht and outside, and therfore assist us in devising our strategy going forward. Regular and detailed audience research data regarding our core audience has not been available to date, and we look forward to drawing on the research output for the benefit of RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta listeners." "This new research initiative  will augment the audience research we have been undertaking for TG4 since 2013, and builds on the audience research model established in conjunction with TG4 at that time," said Project Director Séamas Ó Concheanainn. Dr Eilís Ní Dhúill has been recently recruited to the position of Postdoctoral Researcher with the project. NUI Galway and RTÉ today also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a new MA (Cleachtas Gairmiúil sna Meáin) in professional practice in media, with an emphasis on practice-based learning through Irish at a number of RTÉ studios. This new MA programme will be offered by Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge at NUI Galway from September 2018. It will be available on both a full-time and a part-time basis. This flexible and innovative programme combines online academic modules with significant periods of practice-based work experience in RTÉ in journalism, broadcasting and content creation for radio, television and online platforms.  “Among RTÉ’s challenges around Irish-language output are identifying clearly our audiences so that we may best serve them, and also ensuring that we enable future media practitioners to continue to provide the high-quality services provided by RTÉ as Gaeilge.  That RTÉ have been able to work with NUI Galway with the aim of fulfilling these two key challenges shows the enormous value of partnership, and the importance of building on the continuing relationship between our two organisations.” said RTÉ’s Group Head of Irish Language, Rónán Mac Con Iomaire. The programme director, Dr Uinsionn Mac Dubhghaill, noted "with its balanced mix of the theoretical study of media and practice-based learning the new MA programmeresponds to a demand from students for postgraduate programmes that have strong links to employers and the market”.   ENDS

Friday, 21 September 2018

The MOU establishes research and education alliance with the Vietnam National University of Agriculture on climate resilient agriculture and food systems The Plant & AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) within NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute recently hosted a visiting delegation from the Vietnam National University of Agriculture (VNUA) to develop a research and education partnership between the two universities. During the visit a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh and Professor Nguyen Tat Canh, Vice-President of VNUA. Professor Charles Spillane, Director of the Ryan Institute, highlighted that: “The agriculture and food systems of Ireland and Vietnam both face mounting challenges due to climate change and adverse weather events. On a global level, for the third year in a row the number of undernourished people (i.e. those facing chronic food deprivation), has risen - increasing to nearly 821 million in 2017, from around 804 million in 2016. Gains over recent decades in reducing levels of food insecurity are now being set back by adverse climate events in many regions of the world. The development of climate-resilient agriculture and food systems will require multi-disciplinary research to generate climate-smart innovations that will need to be deployed at scale in all countries.” To help address such challenges, the Ryan Institute’s Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) has established a research, innovation and education alliance with VNUA on the theme of ‘Climate Resilient Agriculture, Food & Nutrition Systems for Sustainable Development’. The partnership will involve student/researcher exchanges and collaborative NUI Galway/VNUA research and innovation activities.  The bilateral cooperation between the two universities is funded by the Vietnam Ireland Bilateral Education  Exchange (VIBE) Programme run by the Irish Embassy in Hanoi through the Irish Aid programme. Five NUI Galway students from its award winning Masters in Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (MScCCAFS) degree have been conducting research in Vietnam over the past two years, working closely with the global CCAFS program (ccafs.cgiar.org) and national partners such as VNUA. The NUI Galway MScCCAFS research has been contributing knowledge and innovations for development of more climate resilient agriculture and food systems in Vietnam and SouthEast Asia. During their visit, the VNUA delegation, along with Ryan Institute Principal Investigators and the MScCCAFS students, participated in the Irish Aid public consultation for Ireland’s new international development policy. At the public consultation, the VNUA Delegation met with Ciaran Cannon, Minister for the Diaspora and International Development. A reciprocal partnership building visit by experts from the NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute to VNUA is planned, which will include a joint VNUA-NUI Galway Workshop on Climate Resilient Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Systems for Sustainable Development in Hanoi on World Food Day on Tuesday, 16 October. The joint workshop will involve participants from NUI Galway, VNUA, Irish Aid, the global CCAFS program, CIAT Vietnam and Vietnamese ministry representatives. -Ends-

Thursday, 20 September 2018

NUI Galway’s School of Maths will hold its third Junior Mathematics Enrichment programme beginning Monday, 1 October. The programme will run for seven weeks (excluding the bank holiday) every Monday from 7.30 – 9pm until Monday, 19 November. The programme, part of a nationwide Irish Mathematical Trust initiative, is open to Junior cycle pupils, normally second or third year, who have an interest in and enthusiasm for mathematics. Through a series of weekly activities, designed to explore mathematical ideas in a supportive and engaging manner, the Junior Mathematics Enrichment aims to offer: A wider perspective on mathematics and its role in life and society An opportunity to develop problem-solving skills An environment centred on the enjoyment of discovery and investigation amongst like-minded peers. The programme is run by a dedicated collective of students from NUI Galway’s Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Education programme under the direction of Dr Aisling McCluskey. Dr McCluskey said: “There is a massive appetite amongst parents, pupils and teachers for this type of opportunity – and a great untapped talent at the junior level. The Junior Mathematics Enrichment programme exposes a rich and fertile seam of mathematical ability in junior cycle, supported by a strong network of parents, teachers, students and lecturers.” All County Galway secondary schools are invited to nominate Junior cycle students who have an interest in mathematics for the seven-week programme.  To register interest, please contact collette.mcloughlin@nuigalway.ie before Friday, 28 September. -Ends-


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