A KILDIMO researcher has been named as the winner of this year’s Orla Benson Postgraduate Research Scholarship at Dublin City University.
Sean Fitzgerald, the son of Olive and Mike Fitzgerald, is a researcher at DCU’s Biomedical Diagnostics Institute and the scholarship will help him to further his research into the development of a new diagnostic device to predict the presence of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest type of cancer in Ireland. But a major problem with this type of cancer is that there are very few symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As a result, by the time symptoms appear and diagnosis is made, the cancer is at an advanced stage, underlining the urgent need for a device that can tell if cancer is present at an earlier, and more treatable, stage.
A recent study in DCU labs identified eight proteins that are present in the blood of patients with colorectal cancer and that are not present in the blood of normal healthy patients.
The aim of Seán’s project is to investigate if these proteins are also found in the actual tumour tissue that has previously been removed from patients, as this would explain how the proteins are making their way into the blood stream. This would also confirm that these eight proteins could potentially be used as part of a new diagnostic device.
The Orla Benson Postgraduate Research Scholarship is an annual scholarship, worth €2,500, was established in memory of Orla Benson, a DCU Biotechnology student from Killarney, who was tragically killed in Boston in September 1995.
The scholarship provides support for one DCU researcher each year who demonstrates outstanding potential in biotechnology. It allows the researcher to develop a particular aspect of their research at a university abroad, where they can establish international links to facilitate research co-operation.
Sean Fitzgerald will use the scholarship to further his studies of colorectal cancer diagnosis in the laboratory of Dr Lance Liotta at George Mason University, Washington DC and to attend the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research.
The Benson family has worked with the DCU Educational Trust to establish the scholarship as a legacy to Orla’s dedication to and love of biotechnology. To date, the Orla Benson Memorial Endowment Fund has provided scholarships for fourteen students.