Network meeting in Thessaloniki Greece on 2nd and 3rd Dec hosted by ENIOS.

ENIOS hosted an INSPIRED Network meeting and symposium – 1st workshop on Computational Cell Biology  in Thessaloniki on  December 2-3, 2018.

ENIOS focuses on transforming the avalanche of genomic complexity into insightful, high-throughput, systemic, information streams. This main aim of this meeting was to bring together computational scientists  from ENIOS with biologists from the other INSPIRED partners to consolidate the expertise of  cell biologists, cancer geneticists, bioinformaticians and computational biologists to i) define realistic objectives that will help to gain a better grasp of the cell biology mechanisms (in particular Endoplasmic Reticulum Proteostasis control) involved in physiology and pathology (with focus on cancer) and ii) synergize between the different research teams that attended to reach these objectives.

Overall a very successful and productive meeting!

Congrats to Eoghan McGrath on his review article in Cancers

Eoghan McGrath currently on secondment from the Samali lab in NUI Galway to the Hetz lab in Chile has published a review on “The Unfolded Protein Response in Breast Cancer” in the journal Cancers


In 2018, in the US alone, it is estimated that 268,670 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and that 41,400 will die from it. Since breast cancers often become resistant to therapies, and certain breast cancers lack therapeutic targets, new approaches are urgently required. A cell-stress response pathway, the unfolded protein response (UPR), has emerged as a promising target for the development of novel breast cancer treatments. This pathway is activated in response to a disturbance in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) homeostasis but has diverse physiological and disease-specific functions. In breast cancer, UPR signalling promotes a malignant phenotype and can confer tumours with resistance to widely used therapies. Here, we review several roles for UPR signalling in breast cancer, highlighting UPR-mediated therapy resistance and the potential for targeting the UPR alone or in combination with existing therapies.

Well done Eoghan!

See here for link to article


Congratulations to INSPIRED researchers for their recent publication in Nature Communications!!

Fantastic work by INSPIRED researchers from NUI Galway, INSERM and the USA who have published their research in Nature Communications  on “Inhibition of IRE1 RNase activity modulates the tumor cell secretome and enhances response to chemotherapy”.

The paper by Logue et al found that targeting the IRE1 stress response pathway may improve the response to chemotherapy and reduce relapse for patients with triple negative breast cancer. The work was a collaborative effort by a numbers of researchers including INSPIRED partners Afshin Samali and Adrienne Gorman NUIG, Eric Chevet Inserm and John Patterson Mannkind.

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is one of the most aggressive and difficult to treat forms of breast cancer. This type of breast cancer accounts for around 15% of all breast cancers diagnosed and occurs more frequently in younger women. Unlike other forms of breast cancer, there are no targeted therapies available for triple negative breast cancer. Currently, chemotherapy is the mainstay treatment, and although initially successful, a large percentage of TNBC patients relapse within one to three years of treatment and have a poor long-term prognosis.

The exact mechanism of the tumour relapse post chemotherapy remained unknown until now. In this study, the research team, led by Professor Afshin Samali at NUI Galway have shown for the first time that IRE1, which is a cellular stress sensor that normally acts to alleviate short-term stresses within cells, such as lack of nutrients or oxygen, is a central driver of treatment-related relapse.

Professor Afshin Samali  said: “This study is the result of extensive laboratory experiments, analysis of breast cancer patient samples, testing pre-clinical models of triple negative breast cancer and collaboration with our international and industry partners. The new era of precision oncology aims to tailor treatments to individual cancer patients and we are excited to identify a new therapeutic strategy for triple negative breast cancer patients who are most in need of better treatment options. Furthermore, this strategy may benefit many other cancer patients whose cancer cells rely on activated cell stress responses to survive.”

Dr Susan Logue, first author of the study at NUI Galway, said: “This work has uncovered a previously unknown role for IRE1 and suggests that it may represent a good therapeutic target for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer. While further research is needed, this work is a great example of how curiosity-driven basic research can lead to translational outcomes with real potential to impact on patient treatment.”

The team discovered that chemotherapy can activate the IRE1 stress response in triple negative breast cancer, leading to the production of survival signals that are pumped out of the cell to support the growth of new cancer cells. Most importantly, the study showed that this process can be halted by specifically inhibiting IRE1 using a clinically-relevant, small molecule drug called MCK8866 that not only improves the effectiveness of the initial chemotherapy treatment, but also reduces relapse of this aggressive form of breast cancer.

Using triple negative breast cancer cells treated with chemotherapy, the research team found that blocking IRE1 activity reduced the production of survival signals, and in turn reduced the growth of new cancer cells by 50%. Furthermore, in a pre-clinical model of TNBC, the drug increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment, leading to regression of 8 out of 10 cancers compared to regression of just 3 out of 10 cancers using chemotherapy alone. The combination of the MCK8866 drug with chemotherapy also reduced tumour relapse in this pre-clinical model of triple negative breast cancer.

In addition to these laboratory-based experiments, an analysis of 595 patient tumours revealed that triple negative breast cancer tumours displayed the highest IRE1 activity compared to other subtypes, suggesting that IRE1 may be of particular importance in TNBC. This discovery suggests that combining chemotherapy with IRE1 inhibitors could offer substantial benefits for triple negative breast cancer patients.

Link to the paper

The study was funded by Science Foundation Ireland, Irish Cancer Society and Horizon 2020 (MSCA TRAINERS  675448 and INSPIRED 734749)  with initial funding from Breast Cancer Now.

Farewell to Alexis after his 1 year secondment from Chile to NUI Galway

NUI Galway researchers bid a fond farewell to Alexis Rivas as he returns home to Chile and back to his work in the Hetz lab.

Alexis will be missed by all his colleagues and new friends at NUI Galway but the connections and networks forged by Alexis while on secondment will facilitate future interactions and collaborative research projects between researchers in the Samali/Gorman labs in Ireland and the Hetz lab in Santiago. All an all an excellent secondment for the researcher and the labs involved!

Congrats to Hetz lab on Nature Cell Biology paper

Fantastic work by Inspired partner Claudio Hetz and co-author Eric Chevet showing an unanticipated role for IRE1α in cell migration.

In this study they showed that IRE1α controls actin cytoskeleton dynamics and affects cell migration upstream of filamin A. Their demonstrated that IRE1 interacts with Filamin A which is an actin crosslinking factor involved in cytoskeleton remodelling. IRE1 regulates cytoskeleton dynamics  independent of its canonical role as a UPR mediator, serving instead as a scaffold that recruits and regulates filamin A. Targeting IRE1α expression in mice affected normal brain development, generating a phenotype resembling periventricular heterotopia, a disease linked to the loss of function of filamin A. IRE1α also modulated cell movement and cytoskeleton dynamics in fly and zebrafish models.

Their work unveils an unanticipated biological function of IRE1α in cell migration, whereby filamin A operates as an interphase between the UPR and the actin cytoskeleton. See