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An Interview with Annette Byrne, COLOSSUS Co-ordinator, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Published on 11 June 2018 back to previous

1.     You lead the COLOSSUS team to improve patient outcomes and human health for people with colorectal cancer. What sparked your interest in CRC research?

I first started in CRC research when I was a postdoc at UC San Francisco (back in the early 2000s) working on the role of angiogenesis inhibitors as a novel treatment approach. On a personal level, my Dad sadly passed away from the disease 10 years ago.

2.     For you, what is the most exciting aspect of the COLOSSUS project?

Bringing together such a diverse group of experts to address a really challenging clinical problem ie to try to find a new way of treating drug-resistant CRC. We have mathematicians, clinicians, bioinformaticians, Physiologists, Tumor Biologists, geneticists, Industry thought leaders and many more! 

3.     What do you think will its greatest challenge?

See above J.. Its exciting to bring such a diverse group of scientists together but we don’t always all ‘ speak the same language’ or approach things in the same way.. This can sometimes be a challenge, but we have done this successfully before in the Angiopredict project (

4.     What is the best way for people with CRC to learn that and when a new, novel treatment or diagnostic tool is available?

It is important for the research community to build two-way relationships with medical charities and advocacy groups such as EurpaColon- partnering with these organizations in research projects, sharing research news in an accessible format and exchanging information via social media channels. Such organisations are established, trusted platforms for people with colorectal cancer to obtain the latest news on new breakthroughs, what it could mean for those with CRC and when new treatments will be available.  

5.     What are the best mechanisms for medical doctors to find out about emerging or newly approved treatment options? Are conferences and publications still the best way to disseminate translational findings?

Yes- but also the Web and use of Social Media are becoming increasingly popular.

6.     Along with your academic teaching workload at the RCSI, you are also leading the Marie Curie Training Network GlioTrain. What do you like to do in your free time, if you have any?! What motivates you to pursue multiple research angles?

I’m obsessed with the Irish writer Samuel Beckett. I think if I wasn’t doing what I do now, I’d try to pursue a degree in English & Philosophy, followed by a PhD in Beckett studies here in Dublin at his alma mater (Trinity College).. I also am a new convert to Cross Fit, enjoy distance cycling and balance this with a healthy interest in sampling local craft beers…

I think I have a genetically programmed ability to multi-task so am naturally inclined to pursue multiple projects/ diverse research angles.. Keep things fun and interesting!

Learn more about COLOSSUS at

COLOSSUS has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement 754923. The material presented and the views expressed here are the responsibility of the author only. The EU Commission takes no responsibility for any use made of the information set out.


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