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Full NameProfessor Donal Brennan
UCD Gyneacological Oncology Group
University College Dublin
- clinical trials
- Obstetrics and Gynaecology
My research interests span 3 themes. I co-lead a large research group focused understanding why ovarian cancer does not respond well to immune check point inhibitors with Prof Walter Kolch in Systems Biology Ireland. We use a combination of computer-based modelling, bioinformatics and proteomics to investigate downstream signalling in T-cells after activation and inhibition of different immune checkpoints and use clinical samples to validate our findings. More information can be found at https://www.precisiononcology.ie/research/researchareas/precisiontreatments/p27/ I also work with Prof Lydia Lynch (TCD/Harvard) investigating the role of the novel immune checkpoint TIGIT in ovarian cancer.
Our second area of interest is in obesity related endometrial cancer and investigating how weight loss may alter cancer biology. We recently published an important paper demonstrating that weight loss can reinvigorate the local immune response in endometrial cancer which can be found here https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35103755/
Finally we have an very active group working in cancer survivorship funded by the Irish Cancer Society and are running a number of clinical trials in this area more infromation can be found at https://www.cancer.ie/cancer-research/about-our-cancer-research/our-cancer-research-networks/womens-health-initiative and at www.thisisgo.ie
Potential projects would focus on either ovarian cancer immunology or weight loss interventions in endometrial cancer. The ovarian cancer project would seek to investigate differences between the tumour microenvironment of primary and metastatic ovarian cancer and to identify novel drug combinations that could be used to improve response to immune checkpoint blockade in ovarian cancer. As a result of our collaboration with AstraZeneca we have access to a number of novel compounds which can be tested in vitro and in-vivo. Our group has produced a lot of data in this area recently and the student would be able to join an established and productive research group.
The second project would focus on a clinical trial of metabolic surgery to prevent endometrial cancer in high risk women with obesity. The planned study will be an international multicenter RCT run in conjunction with University of Louisiana. The PhD project would focus on proteomic analysis of tissue samples taken during the trial as well as recruiting to the Irish arm of the trial, so the student would access training in translational research and clinical trial methodologies.
Almost all of my PhD students have a co-supervisor as I believe this adds to the mentorship process. I currently co-supervise PhD students with Prof Walter Kolch (Systems Biology), Prof Lydia Lynch (Immunology) and Prof Kathleen Curran (radiomics) . I also believe that students should visit international laboratories and centres. Through our industry (AstraZeneca) and academic (Harvard Medical School, University of Louisiana, MD Anderson Cancer Centre, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, University of Melbourne) collaborations, students will also have to the opportunity to include a mobility element in their PhD and visit an international centre to conduct some of their research and develop specific skills.