New ‘virtual’ cancer research centre established

National Cancer Research Centre of Ireland is intended to facilitate high quality research

Prof John Crown said Ireland has six medical schools, twice the European average.

Prof John Crown said Ireland has six medical schools, twice the European average.


A new “virtual” cancer research centre aimed at connecting the various strands of research in Ireland has been established by a group of leading oncologists.

The National Cancer Research Centre of Ireland (NCRCI) is intended to facilitate “high quality, internationally recognised” research into the disease which kills up to 10,000 people a year in Ireland.

Currently, cancer research is spread across several medical schools and other agencies, which experts maintain is not an optimal use of resources.

The new centre will operate on a “virtual” basis to allow academics and clinicians collaborate without having to physically work together.

With the help of €50,000 philanthropic grant, the centre was set up by Prof John Crown, Prof John O’Leary from Trinity College Dublin and Dr Norma O’Donovan from Dublin City University.

It will be administered by the All-Ireland Co-operative Oncology Research Group (ICORG) at its offices in Dublin.

Prof Crown said the absence of a single national research entity had hindered the country’s ability to attract some important research into Ireland.

“Cancer research is becoming very inter-connected, in terms of the different scientific disciplines, to the extent that you really need a whole bunch of different expertises together to do the science properly.”

Ireland currently has six medical schools, which is twice the European average, and almost three times more than the US, per head of population.

“The result is that we have a sort of dispersal and fractionation of our resources,” Prof Crown said.

In 2009, with the help of funding from Science Foundation Ireland, he and his colleagues established a laboratory-based collaborative research consortium, known Molecular Therapeutics for Cancer Ireland (MTCI), which brought together researchers from the three Dublin universities and the College of Surgeons.

“Based on the success of this project, we decided to develop a more comprehensive national structure, which will bring in researchers from the other centres.”

If all the Irish research was “lumped together” it would probably be similar “to one decent-sized American cancer centre” in terms of output, he said.

“If you try to build one cancer centre in one hospital or one university in a country like Ireland that has six universities, the day after you do it, you have five enemies.”

“The right way to do this was to build something which is absolutely virtual. The centre is not bricks and mortar, its people.”

Admission to the NCRCI will be open to all cancer researchers in Ireland. It is also hoped there will be “strong representation” from the patient advocacy communities.

The centre will seek peer-reviewed, philanthropic and industrial support similar to other research charities.

An international scientific advisory board, chaired by Prof Dennis Slamon of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), will also provide peer review for the activities of the group.