Boosting oxygen diffusion in the radioresistant Oesophageal tumour microenvironment to improve radiation response

Maitiú Ó Murchú

Maitiú Ó Murchú has also been awarded the Breakthrough Cancer Research PhD Scholarship 2021. He will join the team of Prof Jacintha O’Sullivan in Trinity College Dublin and work in collaboration with Dr. Helena Kelly’s team in the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland.  Maitiú’s research focuses on Oesophageal Cancer. Oesophageal cancer is a cancer of the food pipe, and only 20% of people diagnosed with this cancer are alive after 5 years.  Patients with oesophageal cancer can be treated with radiation prior to surgery. Radiation treatment is given to reduce tumour size prior to surgery. Unfortunately, up to 70% of these patients do not respond, and their tumour can actually increase in size by the time of surgery due to their non-response to radiation treatment.

Maitiú’s PhD research project aims to test if this non-response to radiation is due to a reduced level of oxygen in the tumour, and to see if this can be fixed by increasing oxygen levels using the new hydrogel, Oxygel, an oxygen-carrying gel which can be injected directly into the tumour. This project will use oesophageal cancer cells which are resistant to radiation and tumour samples consented by oesophageal cancer patients to determine whether Oxygel improves response to radiation. These experiments will allow us to preliminarily test the action of Oxygel on these cells and patient samples, providing information regarding the following: How does Oxygel affect the metabolism and survival of these cancer cells? How long should we treat the cells with Oxygel to see these effects? What doses of Oxygel are most optimal? Does Oxygel boost response to radiation in patient samples? Can Oxygel be used with other treatment approaches?

With an approximate 20% 5-year survival rate, oesophageal cancer is a dismal cancer with unmet clinical needs. New treatment options are urgently required for the approximate 450 annual oesophageal cancer patients in Ireland, and their families and friends. This Breakthrough Cancer Research PhD Scholarship will contribute towards a pre-clinical data package which aims to position Oxygel as a new treatment approach for oesophageal cancer patients, particularly for those who do not respond to radiation treatment.

Start year
End Year
Principal Investigator
Prof Jacintha O’Sullivan & Dr. Helena Kelly’s (Royal College of Surgeons Ireland)
Trinity College Dublin
Grant Funding
Breakthrough Cancer Research PhD Scholarship 2021
Linked to Breakthrough Cancer Research Priorities
1, 3, 5

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