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Circulating miRNA Biochip for Diagnosis & Prognosis of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the commonest malignancy amongst women and in the developed world with 1.3 million new cases diagnosed and 465,000 deaths annually worldwide. Early diagnosis remains a challenge but dramatically reduces morbidity and mortality. Correlation of molecular subtypes of malignant breast cancer with circulating miRNAs suggests there may be specific circulating miRNA signatures of breast cancer. Kerin et al. have show that 2 miRNAs, miR-16 and miR-195, in addition to let7-a not only correlate with miRNA in breast tissue but also track the therapeutic intervention of the disease. The central objective of this project is to engineer a diagnostic platform to separate, capture and detect specific breast cancer-associated miRNA markers from whole blood without enzymatic in-vitro amplification.

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Prof. Terry Smith, BA. Mod (Microbiology), M.Sc., D.Phil., Dip. Management

BDI Principal Investigator – ONC2: Circulating MiRNAs for Diagnosis and Prognosis of Breast Cancer
BDI Principal Investigator – INF1: Bacterial Meningitis Diagnostic Platform

After obtaining a degree in Microbiology, from Trinity College, Dublin (1981), Prof. Smith was employed as a research scientist in the R&D division of G.D. Searle, UK from 1981 until 1984. He undertook a D. Phil. degree at Oxford University, investigating the molecular basis of Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). He was awarded a European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Long-term Post-doctoral Fellowship (1988-1990) to work in the laboratory of Professor Oliver Smithies, 2007 Nobel Laureate in Medicine, at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill. In 1990, he took up a Team Leader position at the National Diagnostics Centre (NDC) at NUI Galway, where he headed up the DNA Diagnostics laboratory. He was appointed General Manager of the NDC, a post he held until 2001. A founder member of the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES), he was appointed Professor of Biomedical Engineering Science and Director of the NCBES in January 2002, the centre currently hosting over 100 academic members, and over 350 researchers and support staff. He led the NUI Galway research team in the development of a four-year research collaboration in molecular diagnostics assay development and commercialisation, with Beckman Coulter Incorporated, which was launched in January 2008, and he is the Research Director of this programme. Professor Smith was appointed Vice President for Research at NUI Galway in July 2008.


Prof. Michael Kerin, MCh, FRCSI, FRCSed, FRCSGen
BDI Principal Investigator – ONC2: Circulating MiRNA Biochip for Diagnosis and Prognosis of Breast Cancer

  • 16 years experience in Breast/Endocrine and General Surgery.
  • 4 years as Lead Surgeon for BreastCheck (National Breast Screening Programme).
  • 3 years as Consultant in Breast/Endocrine and General Surgery in a large cancer centre in U.K.
  • Developed a multidisciplinary team in all aspects of Breast Cancer Management, including: Diagnosis, Staging, Surgical therapy, Reconstruction, Adjuvant therapy and Management of Disseminated Disease.
  • Extensive experience of innovative procedures including: Sentinel node assessment, immediate breast reconstruction, Stereotactic surgery and Applications of magnetic resonance mammography.
  • Broad based General Surgical Training, including: upper and lower gastrointestinal surgery and vascular surgery.
  • Special interest in thyroid and parathyroid surgery.
  • Dedicated research interest in breast cancer including molecular biology, tumour markers, angiogensis, immunohistochemistry and genetic analysis.
  • In excess of 100 original publications on breast cancer topics.
  • Extensive research interest in breast cancer yielded several prizes, including 2 Patey Prizes at successive meetings of the Surgical Research Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Freyer Surgical Symposium Prize. President's Prize at the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland, Podium Presentation at San Antonio.
  • Principal Investigator, Clinical Research Facility, Galway University Hospital.