Research Programs

Cancer is a highly complex family of diseases characterized by aberrant regulation of myriad chemical and biologic processes at the cell, tissue, organ and system levels.  The inherent complexity complicates both cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment, such that breakthrough-level discoveries necessitate a novel perspective conceived at the inter-disciplinary interface. The HCRI program structure fosters cancer-focused convergence research by promoting productive interactions among research groups with distinct expertise and by cross-training young scientists to work collaboratively.

Biseach Initiative

About the Biseach Initiative

The Biseach Initiative represents a strategic cancer research collaboration between the University of Notre Dame's Harper Cancer Research Institute (HCRI) and the University of Galway. Built on the principle that collaboration is the key to significant advances in cancer research, this venture fosters a long-term exchange of ideas and knowledge between faculty and students at both institutions. The word "Biseach" translates to "improvement, healing, recovery" in Irish, embodying the main goal of the initiative.

Our Collaborative Strategy

The Biseach Initiative leverages the infrastructure, talent, and inventive ideas of both institutions with the objective of creating a significant impact in the global arena of cancer research. By facilitating virtual symposia, in-person conferences, and seminars, we aim to uncover research opportunities, encourage joint grant applications, and foster the development of collective publications and patents.

Our Participants

The University of Galway and the University of Notre Dame’s Harper Cancer Research Institute are the proud participants of this venture. Find out more about the Biseach Project Principal Investigators.

The Journey of Our Research Partnership

The seeds of this partnership were planted in 2019 when Professor Sharon M. Stack, HCRI director, and her team visited the University of Galway. A return visit by a Galway delegation was supported by the HEA Academic Mobility Awards and the University of Galway International Office. Despite disruptions due to the global pandemic, the partnership persevered with virtual symposia. The long-planned Biseach research retreat finally took place in June 2022, which included a two-day research symposium and a visit to the University of Galway's laboratory facilities. HCRI eagerly anticipates visiting from our University of Galway colleagues in August 2023.

Expanding Research Opportunities Through the Study Abroad Program

The Study Abroad in Galway program allows Notre Dame students to collaborate with leading cancer research teams. The program offers practical exposure through laboratory work, literature evaluation, and report writing under the mentorship of experienced academic researchers. This immersive experience provides a unique opportunity for our students to contribute to groundbreaking cancer research.

Joining the Biseach Initiative

We're dedicated to nurturing collaborative proposals and fostering a shared vision. To further this aim, we hold follow-up sessions where symposium attendees can explore common objectives. If you would like to become a part of the Biseach Initiative, please fill out the form provided.

Expression of Interest Form

Learn More About Biseach Initiative

For a deeper dive into the Biseach Initiative and its transformative work in cancer research, we invite you to visit the University of Galway's dedicated Biseach Initiative page.

Tumor-Host Communication (THC)

About Tumor-Host Communication (THC)

The goal of the TUMOR-HOST COMMUNICATION (THC) program is to develop analytical approaches, novel technologies, and relevant model systems with which to improve cancer early detection; mechanistically evaluate cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis; and develop advanced models for therapeutic evaluation. Investigators in the THC program focus on two themes: (1) tumor analytics (TA) and (2) tumor microenvironment modeling (TMM).

Program Co-Leaders

Laurie Littlepage, Campbell Family Associate Professor of Cancer Research, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Pinar Zorlutuna, Professor of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering

TA Theme

Investigators in the TA theme develop, use, and integrate bioanalytic approaches for molecular detection of cancer in tissues, cells, sub-cellular particles, and fluids. Multi-omics technologies (genome, proteome, metabolome, microbiome) and single-cell analytics are employed to investigate cancer-driven alterations in analyte expression patterns and to evaluate spatio-temporal control of analyte expression in normal and neoplastic tissues. Micro- and nanofluidic devices with novel detection systems are developed with point-of-care capabilities.

TA Theme Keywords

  • Multi-omics analysis and integration (genome, proteome, metabolome, microbiome)
  • Single cell analytics
  • Tumor and host exosome analysis
  • Micro/nano-fluidics & detection technologies

TMM Theme

Investigators in the TMM theme develop and use cellular, organotypic, organoid, and ex vivo model systems together with engineered biomimetics to address mechanistic events in neoplasia and evaluate tumor development, progression, and metastasis in model organisms to incorporate the role of the complex tumor microenvironment and provide a platform for testing of novel therapeutics.

TMM Theme Keywords

  • Cell, organotypic  ex vivo, and organoid models
  • In vivo tumor models (xenograft, transgenic, PDX)
  • Engineered biomimetics
  • Tumor:microenvironment interactions
  • Basic biologic processes

Mechanisms of Tumor Targeting (MTT)

About Mechanisms of Tumor Targeting (MTT)

The goal of the MECHANISMS OF TUMOR TARGETING (MTT) program is to pursue cancer-relevant targets with novel therapeutic approaches, delivery strategies, and combination therapies and to develop imaging probes and analysis tools with which to assess target engagement and therapeutic efficacy.  Investigators in the MTT program focus on three themes: (1) drug discovery and delivery (D3), (2) immune therapy (IT), and (3) cancer imaging (CI).

Program Co-Leaders

Basar Bilgicer, Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and Brian Blagg, Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

D3 Theme

Investigators in the D3 Theme focus on target identification using high throughput target- and cell-based screening and compound optimization informed by molecular modeling approaches.  Novel drug delivery systems employ targeted nanoparticles and supramolecular interaction platforms.  Paper-based analytics are employed for the detection of counterfeit chemotherapies in low-resource settings.

D3 Theme Keywords

  • Target identification and drug high throughput screening
  • SAR and computational modeling
  • Drug delivery (targeted nanoparticles, supramolecular assemblies)
  • Counterfeit drug detection

IT Theme

Research in the IT Theme is focused on the use of structural biology and biophysical approaches to enhance T-cell recognition of cancer antigens, identifying cancer-specific alterations in the immune landscape, and testing novel combination therapies incorporating an immune-targeting agent to improve outcomes.

IT Theme Keywords

  • Biophysics of immune recognition
  • Immunotherapy
  • Combination therapies

CI Theme

Investigators in the CI Theme synthesize and apply novel in vivo imaging agents for use as molecular correlates of target engagement and treatment response and develop novel algorithms for 2D and 3D image analysis, reconstruction and quantification.

CI Theme Keywords

  • Pre-clinical therapeutic testing
  • In vivo imaging of target engagement & therapeutic response
  • 2D & 3D Image analysis and reconstruction