Lung cancer and melanoma researchers chosen for Irish Cancer Society funding award

Dr Dearbhaile Collins and Dr Shirley Potter chosen for Irish Cancer Society’s 2021 Clinician Research Leadership Award

Cutting-edge clinical research on lung cancer and melanoma treatment will be among the focus of two clinicians chosen for the Irish Cancer Society’s 2021 Clinical Research Leadership Award funding scheme.

The aim of this important scheme is to attract and retain world-class cancer research leaders in Ireland who will drive evidence-based improvements in patient care.

This year’s award funding will support a number of important clinical cancer research projects undertaken by the two awardees, Dr Shirley Potter, Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital who has undertaken extensive skin cancer research in association with University College Dublin, and Cork University Hospital Consultant Medical Oncologist Dr Dearbhaile Collins whose specialisms span lung, cervical and ovarian cancers.

Funding provided as part of the award is aimed at helping to protect research time for clinicians that can be dedicated towards ambitious, forward-looking projects to help bring improvements to areas including the development of new cancer treatments, as well as research into improving patient care and outcomes.

The current Lung Cancer Lead for Cork University Hospital as well as a member of the National Cancer Control Programme lung cancer leads group and a Senior Clinical Lecturer with University College Cork, Dr Dearbhaile Collins has current research interests across a wide range of areas which she is looking forward to advancing under the award:

“I intend for my own research to have a significant patient impact, that’s the whole point of taking it to a clinical trial. I hope to identify new ways to target cancers – especially the ones that we struggle with, those that are resistant to immunotherapy and targeted treatments.

“I want to be where the unmet need is, where patients aren’t getting improvements to their survival curves. The Clinician Research Leadership Award from the Irish Cancer Society will give me that time to be more involved in the actual scientific side: to plan the research, to design the trials, and to write the protocols” she said.

Dr Shirley Potter’s interest in cancer stemmed from a close personal link which has driven her determination to improve the outcomes of people affected by the disease.

“I have had a personal encounter in that my mum has had both ovarian and colorectal cancer, and she’s still alive and amazing, and she inspires me in the work that I do,” remarked Dr Potter, who wants to contribute to reducing the burden of melanoma in future given the devastating impact it can have for the 1,300 people diagnosed with it every year in Ireland.

“We’ve brought an international surgical trial to Ireland called the MelmarT trial, which will look at whether we should take a narrow or wide margin in melanoma surgery,” Dr Potter says.

“Early results show that more conservative surgery has no effect on survival outcomes. If these results hold true in the international trial, it would mean less extensive surgery for melanoma patients, resulting in less scarring and postoperative pain, as well as faster recovery and hopefully the same survival outcomes”.

“Due to major recent advances in the treatment of melanoma, thankfully more and more melanoma patients are surviving. Therefore I am keen to address survivorship issues of this group of patients, such as treatment side effects and the psychological impact such a diagnosis has on the individual. ”

Irish Cancer Society Director of Research Dr Robert O’Connor congratulated both recipients on their awards, and said he is excited to see the valuable progress their work will bring.

“The Irish Cancer Society recognises that cancer clinicians who have honed their expertise in leading international research centres and are looking to become the next generation of research leaders in Ireland particularly require support and protected time to be in a position to undertake and drive world-class cancer research in Ireland at a pivotal time in the evolution of their research career.

“We’re really looking forward to working with both Dr Potter and Dr Collins and contributing to innovations and discoveries that will improve the lives of people touched by cancer,” Dr O’Connor said.

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