Irish Cancer Society researcher and UCD post-doctoral scientist, Dr Maria Prencipe, was awarded the distinguished St Luke’s Young Investigators Award at a ceremony last month.

The award was presented only a few days prior to World Cancer Day on February 4th, with the prize aimed at honouring young oncology academics and their research into different cancer fields. The judging process considers the research elements of clinical, basic and transitional research when deciding who is given the award.

Dr Principe’s work focuses on prostate cancer and explored the treatment of CRPC (castrate resistant prostate cancer), exploring a particular protein that enables the spread of the cancer from its point of origin.

Speaking to the University Observer, Dr Prencipe said, “I felt thrilled. This is a very competitive and prestigious prize, it was good enough to be shortlisted but to win was just unbelievable! I am delighted.”

She continued, “I have been working on this project for three and a half years, here in UCD. The first three years I was a postdoc within Molecular Therapeutics for Cancer Ireland working with Prof. William Watson. This led to my successful application for an Irish Cancer Society research fellowship, which will allow me to progress my work on novel therapeutic targets for prostate cancer as an independent researcher.”

Her thesis, entitled ‘A New Molecular Target for Castrate-Resistant Prostrate Cancer: Negative Feedback Loop between SRF and AR’, was delivered on the evening and was chosen ahead of three other promising young researchers’ work.

The award is supported by the Irish Royal Academy of Medicine, and St Luke’s Radiation Oncology Unit in Dublin, and all nominated researchers will be awarded an academic bursary respectively to advance their research in their chosen, specific oncology fields.

The St Luke’s award annually recognises new generations of promising researchers in oncology, and now in its 11th year, the award strives to honour high-achieving cancer research from up-and-coming, bright researchers.

UCD alumnus, Professor John Fitzpatrick, head of research at the Irish Cancer Society, was delighted with Dr Prencipe, but also with “All the finalists who represent a cohort of future research leaders who will keep the field of cancer research vibrant.”

Dr Prencipe will now receive an educational grant, and the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland Bronze Medal from the St Luke’s Award.

The Italian researcher completed explorations into the prostate oncology field in UCD, from which she has a PhD, which in conjunction with the Irish Cancer Society, allowed for Dr Principe’s achievement in the prostate cancer treatment research.

The award-winning research focused on “defining the mechanism of resistance” and the research was successfully collected “using a combination of transcriptomics and bioinformatics analysis” in the words of Dr Prencipe.

Talking about her long-term goals with regards to her research, Dr Prencipe said she simply hopes to make a difference in the treatment of prostate cancer.

“I hope that my research will lead to novel therapeutic options for patients with advanced prostate cancer, which is very challenging to treat. With my research I want to make a difference, bringing tangible benefits to patients and their families.”