A National Children’s Research Centre project in Neuroblastoma research won the award for Technology Innovation on February 7th.
Dr. Olga Piskareva received an SFI TIDA (Science Foundation Ireland’s Technology Innovation Development Award) for her extensive research on Neuroblastoma, an aggressive type of cancer tumour that begins in the nerve tissues of infants and very young children. It affects an average of 10 Irish children a year.
This type of cancer begins in certain early forms of nerve cells, most often found in an embryo or fetus and it varies in how quickly or slowly it can develop. Occasionally, in cases of very young children, the cancer cells can die without treatment and the tumour disappears on its own.
Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer that affects infants and is the third most common type of cancer in children after leukemia and brain cancer. Neuroblastoma accounts for 15% of yearly cancer deaths in children worldwide.
D.r Piskareva’s research is funded by CMRF Crumlin, who said that the award is a testimony to the high standard of research excellence facilitated at the NCRC. The award of over €128,000 will allow her to continue researching neuroblastoma.
Dr. Piskareva is also a leading childhood cancer researcher at the Royal College of Surgeon’s Ireland. She was part of the team of scientists there who, earlier this year, created a new 3D approach for examining the way cancer cells develop and grow.
Their argument is that the closer you get to mimicking the real environment cancer cells grow in the human body, the more likely developing drugs are to be successful. The usual 2D models used to test cancer treatments are not as effective because they lack the real height, width and depth of the human body.
By the time these drugs are tested on animals, they usually fail because an animal cell environment is completely different to the flat surface they were originally tested on. Dr Piskareva’s lab in the RCSI developed a model more close to the environment cells usually live in.
Commenting on her new 3D model, Dr Piskareva said, “The development and approval of new oncology drugs are very slow processes. This is mainly due to the big differences in the physiology of cancer cells grown on plastic and in native microenvironment.”
“This proposal aims to develop a tissue-engineered tumour model that can be used in testing new drugs and new combinations of existing drugs,” she said.
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