Prof Ruth Clifford MD PhD
Consultant Haematologist, University Hospital Limerick
Professor of Molecular Pathology in the Health Research Institute, University of Limerick
The Limerick region is increasing its research profile through ground-breaking advances in blood cancers.
A rich portfolio of cancer clinical trials has been developed over the last decade at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) under the leadership of Professor Linda Coate and Maureen O’Grady. This has already led to more effective and safer treatments for patients.
The current director of the Trials Unit, Professor Ruth Clifford, is working closely with a team of internationally leading cancer researchers delivering new treatments within clinical trials. Professor Clifford highlights: “We are opening important trials across blood cancers including lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and acute leukaemia. International evidence confirms that higher quality services are delivered by academic centres that run clinical trials. This is a cornerstone of our vision for cancer patient treatment in the mid-west region.”
A strong focus on patient-centred research
The research profile of the Limerick region is broadening through collaborative networks. Groups working in cancer research have come together to form the UL Cancer Network (ULCaN), directed by Professor Patrick Kiely. Through ULCaN, platforms to enable the public and patients to direct research are under development. As Professor Clifford states: “It is important that people living in this region have the opportunity to contribute to the development of research. A recent survey revealed that many patients were unaware that clinical trials were undertaken in UHL.”
We hope that our patients and the public will join us in progressing cancer research for this region aiming for higher standards of care for our cancer patients.
Looking to the future – personalised cancer care
Research within the newly established Limerick Digital Cancer Research Centre, in partnership with Dell Technologies and UHL, is working towards personalised treatments for all blood cancer patients. As Professor Paul Murray confirms: “Until now, we have lacked the tools that can identify the key features of a patient’s tumour that can predict treatment response. However, this is now possible using a new technology known as ‘spatial profiling’ in which we can identify how different cells in the cancer interact with each other.”
Working with artificial intelligence experts, Professor Pepijn van de Ven and Professor Conor Ryan, the UL research team plan to design a new generation of diagnostic tests based on these features. As Dr Eanna Fennell, a post-doctoral fellow at University of Limerick (UL), says: “These new tests will ensure that only patients who will respond to a given therapy will be treated. This will improve their chance of cure and reduce the unnecessary toxicity and costs associated with the use of ineffective treatments.”
“This is a very exciting time for the team in Limerick” states Professor Clifford, “we hope that our patients and the public will join us in progressing cancer research for this region aiming for higher standards of care for our cancer patients.”
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