News and Events

Cancer Biology Mini-Symposium

22 Sep 2008

To mark the launch of the new, Health Research Board-funded, PhD Scholars Programme in Cancer Biology at UCC, the UCC Cancer Biology community will host a Mini-Symposium on Friday, 3 October 2008 in Brookfield Health Sciences Complex G02 at 2:30pm.  The Cancer Biology Mini-Symposium will feature presentations from three distinguished, internationally-recognised, cancer researchers: Scott Lowe, Karen Keeshan, and Corrado Santoconale.

The keynote address, "Dissecting tumor suppressor gene networks in vivo," will be delivered by Professor Scott Lowe, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Deputy Director of the Cancer Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, USA. 

Professor Lowe’s research focuses on two key cellular processes, apoptosis and senescence.  Apoptosis is a process that instructs cells to dies when they have been irretrievably damaged or become no longer useful.  Senescence, however, is a “genetic death” that allows damaged cells to live but prevents them from propagating.

In normal cells both processes are necessary and tightly controlled in order for organisms to develop properly and survive. However cancer cells often have mutations in genes that disrupt apoptosis and senescence, allowing cancer cells to grow uncontrollably.

According to Professor Rosemary O’Connor, Director of the PhD Scholars Programme in Cancer Biology, “Professor Lowe is one of the most innovative cancer researchers in the world. His work has made very significant contributions to our understanding of how cancer develops and responds to therapy.”

The second speaker, Dr. Karen Keeshan, is a recipient of the 2007 President of Ireland Young Researcher Award and member of the Department of Biochemistry, UCC.  Dr. Keeshan’s presentation, “A study of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and the Oncogene Trib2,” will highlight her work on the recently identified Trib2 oncogene and how dysregulated Trib2 protein contributes to acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). 

In AML, the uncontrolled, exaggerated growth and accumulation of white blood cells leads to anemia and a deficiency in normal white blood cells, resulting in "cancer of the blood".  Dr. Keeshan's studies in mice have shown that when Trib2 is expressed in the blood cells, it leads to AML. Specifically, Trib2 degrades other proteins in the blood that act to suppress tumour growth. By examining samples from AML patients, Dr. Keeshan found that Trib2 is present at higher-than-normal levels, suggesting that this protein plays an important role in the pathogenesis of AML in humans.  

The final speaker, Professor Corrado Santocanale, Chair in Molecular Medicine, National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science, NUI-Galway, will discuss his work on, “Discovery of a novel class of anticancer agents targeting DNA replication.” 

In order for cells to propagate, the cell’s DNA must be duplicated, or replicated.  Unlike normal cells, cancer cells go through cycles of DNA replication more frequently.  Therefore by inhibiting the early stages of DNA replication with targeted therapeutics, it might be possible to control cancer cells.  With several years experience in the pharmaceutical industry developing anticancer drugs and characterizing the components of DNA replication, Professor Santocanale’s presentation will highlight how understanding a fundamental cellular process like DNA replication can potentially lead to better treatments for cancer patients.        

The PhD Scholars Programme will train eighteen Scholars in Cancer Biology over the next seven years. The first five Scholars will begin their studies in October 2008. They will participate in a first year of taught courses and laboratory projects made available from twenty-two principal investigators in Science and Medicine. In their second year, the Scholars will choose a research project for their PhD thesis.  A second cohort of students will be selected for 2009. More information is available on the website:

Attendance at the Cancer Biology Mini-Symposium at UCC is free and open to all.



Cancer Biology at UCC