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Research Highlights

Incoming Marie Curie Fellow to work on virus-associated cancer

Dr Lucia Mundo from the laboratory of Prof Lorenzo Leoncini in the Department of Medical Biotechnology, University of Siena, was awarded a prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) fellowship to allow her to come to the University of Limerick and work with Prof Paul Murray. Her project, entitled ‘VIRGO: Studying a VIRal Gpcr in Oncogenesis, received one of the highest scores (95.60% out of 100) among projects submitted to this call. The fellowship will allow Dr Mundo to pursue studies on the Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), a herpesvirus that infects more than 95% of adults worldwide. While most people carry EBV as a life-long asymptomatic infection, in some people, EBV contributes to malignant transformation causing lymphomas (Burkitt lymphoma) and epithelial malignancies (e.g. stomach cancer). To date, there are no drugs that can target  EBV infection in these cancers.

Dr Mundo has already shown that some EBV-associated cancers express the virus gene called BILF1, a constitutively active G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) that could be a realistic therapeutic target in these malignancies. Indeed, GPCRs are the most successful class of drug target for the treatment of human disorders.

The funding will significantly advance our knowledge of the mechanisms of EBV-mediated cancer development and will pave the way for the development of new EBV-targeting small molecule drugs.

Dr Mundo joins the University of Limerick in October 2020.

Recently Dr James Brown, in collaboration with Professor Michael Kerin’s group (NUI Galway), published their latest paper in the prestigious journal Cancers 

(https://www.mdpi.com/762592). The work investigates the identification of microRNA found in the blood as a means to stratify breast cancer response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT). They demonstrate the prognostic ability of miR-21, miR-195 and miR-145 as circulating biomarkers capable of stratifying breast cancer patients by NACT response. This work was led by Dr Brown’s PhD students, Dr Andrew McGuire and Dr Maire-Caitlin Casey, and is the first report from the Clinical Trials Ireland multi-centre, prospective study (CTRIAL-IE (ICORG) 10-11).

Prospective Assessment of Systemic MicroRNAs as Markers of Response to Neoadjavant Chemotherapy in Breast Cancer. McGuire et al, Cancers. 202012(7), 1820; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12071820