The population of Western Ireland hasn’t experienced as many inward migration trends as other parts of Western Europe, as a result, the population is less diverse. These demographics make it an ideal population for the study of genetic predisposition to disease since any new causal variants identified by the study would also be found in individuals with Irish ancestry spread around the world.
For Una McVeigh, a PhD student at National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway), identifying new genetic variants associated with breast cancer is both a personal and a professional mission. Her mother was diagnosed with the disease at age 34. While her mother’s treatment was successful, McVeigh realizes that many women, particularly those diagnosed so young, are not so fortunate.
“The goal of my research is to find new genetic mutations associated with predisposition to breast cancer and tools that will enable the identification of women most at risk for the disease,” said Una. “Ultimately we want to be able to give women options for preventive measures they can take before breast cancer has a chance to develop."
“The Go Mini Scientific Challenge was designed to harness the creativity of researchers and drive awareness for the versatility of the MiniSeq, our smallest and least expensive system to date,” noted Sam Raha, Vice President, Global Marketing for Illumina. “The MiniSeq System is an ideal tool for studies such as Una’s. We are so pleased to play a role in her research and hope her team succeeds in identifying new genes associated with breast cancer.”
“We have been working to establish a core lab at our facility where next-generation sequencing can be used to study samples from our department of surgery’s biobank,” said Michael Kerin, MB, MCH, Chair of Surgery and Vice Dean of College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway. “It’s exciting that Una has won this award from Illumina so that we can begin to pilot this study using the MiniSeq sequencing runs and the library preparation tools our lab hopes to adopt in the near future. “I was shocked when I learned I was a winner of this challenge,” Una added. “Using next-generation sequencing in breast cancer research is a first for Western Ireland, and I’m privileged to play a role in it at this pivotal stage in my career.”
Una is part of an interdisciplinary research team which includes scientists, bioinformaticians, breast cancer surgeons, and clinical geneticists, which is led by Department Head, Professor Michael Kerin. She is also supervised by Derek Morris, PhD, Lecturer in Biomedical Science at NUI Galway, and Nicola Miller, PhD, Lecturer in Surgery at NUI Galway. The research is supported by Breast Cancer Research, an Irish charity that raises funds in support of world-class breast cancer research at the National University of Ireland, Galway. “We are delighted for Una on winning this much sought after award for her research on the genetics of breast cancer. Innovative research like Una’s is advancing Breast Cancer Research’s vision of having a real and measurable impact on outcomes for breast cancer patients,” added Helen Ryan, Board Chairperson of Breast Cancer Research.
Stay tuned to the Illumina News Center for more stories about our Go Mini Scientific Challenge Winners.