Home » Oncology » Enabling personalised medicine for cancer patients across the island through digital revolution

Prof Walter Kolch

Director of Systems Biology Ireland, based at UCD

Prof William Gallagher

Full Professor of Cancer Biology at UCD,
Co-Lead of the All-Island Cancer Research Institute

Biology and medicine are morphing into data-driven sciences. The dream of personalised medicine — finding the right medicine for the right patient at the right time — is coming into reach. 

This digital transformation is particularly visible in oncology, where genome sequencing in the clinic has shown the importance of data analysis in enabling clinical decision-making, and the development of computational models that allow us to interact with and do bespoke analyses of data.  

At the leading edge, cancer researchers at UCD have received strategic investment in key interdisciplinary projects covering fundamental biomedical science to computational biology, data science and AI.  

Using the power of data for personalised medicine 

UCD-based research centre Systems Biology Ireland (SBI), led by international leader in personalised medicine Prof Walter Kolch, is leading the charge towards clinical adoption of digital twin models (DTMs) in cancer treatment.  

SBI’s approach is to analyse computer models of patients and understand every individual’s tumour, enabling the design of the best therapeutic intervention via computer simulation. “The goal is for real cancer patients to receive the optimum treatment — the treatment most likely to work on their cancer with fewer harmful side effects,” says Prof Kolch.  

This endeavour has been boosted by national investment in groundbreaking consortium Precision Oncology Ireland, led by SBI, which unites the efforts of five universities and associated hospitals, six cancer charities and seven industry partners. 

As a community, we need to overcome narrow,
single institution mindsets so we can build
sufficient critical mass, inclusively.

Leveraging research networks 

UCD’s Professor William Gallagher co-leads the All-Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI), which — together with colleagues in the US and Europe — is building a global collaborative network to evolve the research and innovation (R&I) ecosystem in cancer research.  

“As a community, we need to overcome narrow, single institution mindsets so we can build sufficient critical mass, inclusively — to gain a better understanding of cancer and develop more personalised treatment options to ease suffering and save lives,” explains Professor Gallagher.  

Making fundamental discoveries with real, far-reaching impact for people and our planet.

This virtual institute, involving 10 academic institutions and linked clinical centres, provides an overarching framework for cancer research from discovery to implementation across the island of Ireland — where one in two people will develop cancer during their lifetime. 

So far, AICRI has attracted funding to pursue ‘compelling ideas’ from the cancer research community in the areas of personalised cancer medicine, liquid biopsies and eHealth, including a doctoral and post-doctoral training programme in personalised cancer medicine called AICRIstart.  

“This project will train the next generation of cancer researchers in cutting-edge scientific approaches, with an emphasis on inter-institutional collaboration,” concludes Professor Gallagher. “AICRIstart will provide a roadmap of even greater collaboration.” 

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