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Dr. Helena Kelly

 Dr. Helena Kelly

ChemoGel aims to offer a new approach to the treatment of pancreatic cancer by delivering drugs directly to the tumour site. Pancreatic cancer has the highest rate of death per incidence of any cancer and there has been no significant improvement in survival outcomes in the last 40 years. Part of the reason is due to the fact that the tumour tissue is extremely dense and has a poor blood supply. This makes it very difficult for systemic drugs to enter the tumour in high concentrations reducing the impact of systemic drug delivery. Therefore surgery provides the best chance of survival, however only about in 1 in 5 patients are eligible for surgery at time of diagnosis. Upto a further 40% of patients have locally advanced disease, where the tumour has not spread outside the pancreas but is too large for surgical resection.

Right now therefore, the best chance of improving survival is to increase the number of patients having surgery. Chemogel is a unique thermoresponsive hydrogel drug delivery platform; liquid at room temp and a semi-solid hydrogel at body temperature. It can be loaded with a range of chemotherapy drugs and then delivered directly into the tumour using standard endoscopy procedures. After injection it transitions to its gel state forming a drug depot in the tumour which delivers a high local drug concentration over a sustained period of time maximising efficacy but reducing systemic toxicity. ChemoGel aims to reduce the overall tumour burden in certain pancreatic cancer patient cohorts, making them eligible for surgery and improving overall survival.

The ChemoGel technology has been developed at RCSI by founder and inventor Dr. Helena Kelly supported by funding from RCSI and Enterprise Ireland. Helena was awarded her PhD from Trinity College Dublin and has over 15 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical and academic fields across a broad range of strategic, commercial and operational environments throughout the entire pharmaceutical product lifecycle. She has successfully managed projects from early stage innovative research through process development and to large scale manufacture in a variety of organisational settings.

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