OCT 16, 2013 12:00 PM PDT

Fast-Tracking Molecular Diagnostics in Oncology via Antibody-Based Proteomics and Digital Pathology

  • Associate Professor of Cancer Biology, University College Dublin School of Biomolecular & Biomedical Science
      Prof. Gallagher originally graduated from the Department of Biochemistry, UCD in 1993 with a 1st Class Joint Honours degree in Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry. Subsequently, he obtained a PhD in Molecular Oncology from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Laboratories in Glasgow. In 1997, he moved to Paris to undertake a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship at Rhone-Poulenc Rorer (currently Sanofi-Aventis). Afterwards, he returned to Ireland upon receipt of an Enterprise Ireland Post-Doctoral Fellowship (1999-2000) and, subsequently, a Marie Curie Return Fellowship (20002001). In 2001, he was employed in a permanent capacity as College Lecturer at UCD within the former Department of Pharmacology. In 2005, he was appointed Senior Lecturer within the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and was promoted to Associate Professor of Cancer Biology in 2006. From September 2009-August 2011, Prof. Gallagher was the Vice-Principal of Research and Innovation at the UCD College of Life Sciences. He is also a Conway Fellow at the UCD Conway Institute. In 2007, he co-founded OncoMark Ltd., which is a private company centred on the development and application of biomarker panels and associated technologies, on both tissues and biological fluids (www.oncomark.com). Prof. Gallagher is currently the Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) at OncoMark. A major focus of Prof. Gallaghers research work is the identification and validation of candidate biomarkers of breast cancer and melanoma, with particular emphasis on translation of transcriptomic and proteomic datasets into clinically relevant assays. In addition, his team utilises lentiviral-based approaches to investigate the functional relevance of candidate tumour progression-associated genes at both in vitro and in vivo levels, as well as engages in preclinical evaluation of novel anti-cancer agents. Prof. Gallagher previously co-ordinated an FP6 Marie Curie Transfer of Knowledge Industry-Academia Partnership Programme, Target-Breast (www.targetbreast.com), which involved 3 academic and 2 industrial partners across 3 EU countries (which ran from Feb 2006-2010). He currently co-ordinates two analogous FP7 Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnership and Pathways Programmes, (1) Target-Melanoma, which is focused on identification and validation of novel molecular determinants of melanoma progression [this programme involves 7 partners (5 academic/2 industrial) across 5 EU countries and runs from 2009-2013] and (2) FAST-PATH, which is focused on applying high-performance computing and automated image analysis to fast-track pathological assessment in prostate cancer [this programme involves 6 partners (4 academic/2 industrial) across 3 EU countries and runs from 2011-2015]. Prof. Gallagher is also co-PI and Deputy Co-ordinator of a major Science Foundation Ireland-funded Strategic Research Cluster, Molecular Therapeutics of Cancer (2009-2014) (www.mtci.ie); this is the most extensive research programme in the translational cancer research arena within the Republic of Ireland and involves comprehensive interactions with a range of major pharmaceutical, biotechnology and imaging companies. He is also co-ordinator of a large-scale FP7 collaborative project, entitled RATHER, which is focused on providing new rationalised therapy options for difficult-to-treat breast cancer subtypes (2011-2015). This multi-million euro project involves 6 academic groups and 2 industrial parties across 5 EU countries. His research group is also involved in several other FP7 research programmes as partners, including AngioTox and AngioPredict. Prof. Gallagher has received a number of awards based on his research work to date, including the BACR/AstraZeneca Young Scientist Frank Rose Award in 2004, the St. Lukes Silver Medal Award in 2008 and the NovaUCD 2011 Innovation Award. Prof. Gallagher has had productive collaborative interactions with a variety of other industrial partners throughout his research, and has filed/been awarded multiple patents.


    The effective implementation of personalised cancer therapeutic regimens depends on the successful identification and translation of informative biomarkers to aid clinical decision making. The utility and importance of cancer biomarkers has been recognised by substantial public and private funding, and biomarker discovery efforts are now commonplace in both academic and industrial settings. Advances in omic technologies, especially transcriptomics and proteomics, have led to a proliferation of potential cancer biomarkers. However, the pace of biomarker validation has not kept up with the extensive strides made in discovery. Key to successful translation of biomarkers into clinical settings is the establishment of robust, reproducible and informative assays. Antibody-based proteomics occupies a pivotal space in the cancer biomarker discovery and validation pipeline, facilitating the high-throughput evaluation of candidate markers. Although the clinical utility of such approaches remains to be established, the traditional use of antibodies as affinity reagents in clinical diagnostic and predictive assays suggests that rapid translation is an achievable goal. Furthermore, in combination with, or as alternatives to, genomic and transcriptomic methods for patient stratification, antibody-based proteomics approaches offer the promise of additional insight into cancer disease states. In this presentation, the current status of antibody-based proteomics will be covered, as will its contribution to the development of new assays that are crucial for the realisation of individualised cancer therapy. Moreover, the utility of digital pathology, particularly pertaining to automated assessment of tissue-derived biomarker expression, will also be described. The presentation will also provide a more general perspective of the advent of molecular diagnostics within the oncology arena, as well as touch upon several large-scale collaborative cancer research projects which are taking place at the international level that are addressing key issues in this space.

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