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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

Two minutes with… Dr Kieran Breen – Director of Research

Two minutes with… Dr Kieran Breen – Director of Research
by Elise O'Kelly

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

Obviously I have a cup of coffee! But when I start work, I catch up with any emails which have come through overnight. Research into brain tumours is international, and I regularly receive emails from abroad, as well as detailed articles from scientific journals, informing me of new research findings. It is important that I keep up to date on relevant research in this field.

If you could do another job, what would it be?

Probably a chef. This doesn’t mean that I can cook – my wife will attest to that! However, I like watching cookery programmes on the TV and when I retire, I might be tempted to enter MasterChef (having had some training)!

What makes you happy?

Knowing that I am making a difference. In research, I have worked in dementia, Parkinson’s and now brain tumours. It is important to make contact with patients with the conditions. This is very inspiring and really puts your work into perspective. Although my research was on cells grown in a dish, I always asked the question as to whether the results would make a real difference. It is only by understanding the basic biology of the disease that we will really develop effective treatments.

What is your favourite hat?

I rarely wear a hat! However, the most functional is a white straw hat that I wear on holidays to keep the sun off my head.  Being “follicularly challenged” (bald) means that I am very sensitive to the sun!

Who inspires you?

A friend of mine who is disabled and has been in a wheelchair since birth. She has a great job and gets on with life. It puts me having a cold into perspective.

What is your favourite memory?

My time at college as an undergraduate. Although the focus now seems to be on passing exams, back in the 80s we were there to learn. So, quite regularly as undergraduates, a group of us would sit around outside the library in the evening discussing, science, philosophy and politics. We were really a group together, learning from each other. Despite the fact that we have now dispersed around the world, we try to meet every Christmas back in Ireland and still discuss global politics.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Learning foreign languages. I spent some time working in a laboratory in France and although I went to classes, I never really grasped the language. This is probably because, as I scientist, I tend to think logically. However, languages are anything but logical.

Why did you choose your profession?

When I was at school, I had a choice between accountancy and science. Then I went to a school “summer camp” where we had some lectures and the opportunity to visit research institutions. I was fascinated by how many opportunities there were to answer key questions. I studied pharmacology (how drugs act within the body). There was so much that we didn’t know about the drugs that were being used in the clinic and how we need to work to develop new ones.

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