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Dr Fiona O Halloran

Dept Biological Sciences, MTU

Dr Seán Costelloe

Dept Clinical Biochemistry, CUH

Dr Vitaliy Mykytiv

Department of Haematology, CUH

Clinical trials can be linked to improving the diagnostic capabilities of our clinical laboratories or developing novel testing strategies to detect disease.

Clinical pathology laboratories support the diagnosis of disease through testing of blood, other bodily fluids, tissues and cells. Medical scientists in these laboratories work tirelessly to provide a high-quality service in what is acknowledged as an increasingly busy and challenging national healthcare service.

Providing clinical pathology support

Even in this challenging environment, medical scientists develop and support projects that identify more efficient and effective ways to improve laboratory services. To support them, researchers in Munster Technological University (MTU) are engaged in a number of collaborative research projects, involving clinical trials, which aim to improve the diagnostic services of clinical pathology laboratories. Patient-focused research activity in hospitals can help improve patient care quality and support better patient outcomes.

Novel strategies for diagnosing diabetes

More than half a billion adults are living with diabetes worldwide and its incidence in Ireland is increasing. It is also becoming more challenging to differentiate between different types of diabetes, particularly in children and young adults. Early detection and differentiation are key to help direct appropriate treatment and prevent long-term complications.

Jessica Neville, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Cork University Hospital (CUH), is collaborating with Dr Seán Costelloe (CUH) and Dr Fiona O Halloran (MTU) to investigate current clinical practice in Ireland for diagnosing diabetes. They are exploring the potential of novel testing strategies and predictive clinical biomarkers for early detection of disease. 

Clinical trial work is at the centre of this project, and patient recruitment is essential to assess the effectiveness of any new testing strategy. A major aim is to identify new methods of testing for type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes, which are easier for patients and more feasible to tolerate and schedule. This would improve diagnostic turnaround times and ease footfall in hospitals.

More than half a billion adults are living with diabetes worldwide and its incidence in Ireland is increasing.

Improving clinical detection of cancer

Multiple myeloma (MM) is the second most common blood cancer in adults, and its incidence continues to increase. In Ireland, almost 400 people are diagnosed with MM every year. While there is currently no cure for this disease, early clinical detection and treatment intervention can significantly improve patient wellbeing and prognosis.  

Despite developments in treatment options, most patients will relapse; and this is usually caused by residual drug-resistant cancer cells. The ability to detect these residual cells relies on the sensitivity of the testing methods. 

Aisling O Brien, Department of Immunology, Cork University Hospital (CUH), in collaboration with Dr Vitaliy Mykytiv (CUH) and Dr Fiona O Halloran, is investigating ways to improve the diagnostic capabilities of clinical laboratories for MM.

Clinical trials that involve the collection of bone marrow and blood samples from MM-positive patients are central to the success of the project and the development of more sensitive clinical tests for MM cancer cells. Using sophisticated equipment, a major aim of this project is to investigate the potential use of blood-based methods to allow more frequent, less-invasive testing for MM patients. 

Patient contribution key to clinical trials

Clinical trials rely on patient participation. We want to take the opportunity to thank all the patients who contribute to our clinical trials. We are acutely aware that our studies rely on patients who have been diagnosed with chronic, sometimes life-threatening conditions, and we are grateful for their support. Keeping the patients at the centre of our research is a priority and keeps us focused and committed.

Acknowledging colleagues and sponsors

These projects and clinical trial work are supported by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including clinicians, nurses and nutritionists. Funding support for these projects is through the Irish Research Council, Breakthrough Cancer Research and the Haematology and Education Research Trust. These projects are also sponsored by the Higher Education Authority Technological Transformation Fund and MTU. 

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