Country to get new cancer institute

Plans for a new state of the art cancer institute will be jointly announced by Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital later today.

The first of its kind in Ireland, the institute will set a new standard for cancer care nationally, integrating medicine and science in cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship.

Based on similar leading international models, it will be located in one designated facility at St James’s Hospital, the largest university teaching hospital in Dublin.

Plans for the new institute will be unveiled at the start of Cancer Week Ireland 2016 today. It kicks off with a conference at TCD that will explore new frontiers in personalised cancer care.

Scientists and clinicians will discuss how immunotherapy, surgery and genomic profiling are fundamentally changing cancer treatment.

Dr David Gallagher, a consultant oncologist and medical geneticist who heads the Cancer Genetics Unit at St James’s Hospital, said optimism about personalised cancer care had grown again in the past two years.

“Attempts to combine multiple targeted therapies have been hampered by the overlapping toxicities of the individual drugs, and for a period of time the promise of personalised cancer care plateaued,” said Dr Gallagher.

Some of the cutting edge treatments modulate the immune system, actually turning the person’s immune system against their cancer, producing remarkable results.

And the emergence of germline genetic predictors of response to treatment means that an individual’s core DNA could predict their response to different therapies.

Dr Gallagher said the ability to target the epigenome — chemical compounds that can tell the genome what to do, also held considerable promise for stopping and reversing cancer very early in its development.

“These innovations will change cancer care dramatically over the next decade, but our greatest challenge may be to ensure that our creaking healthcare system maintains pace with this progress,” he warned.

Cancer Week Ireland, organised by the Irish Cancer Society and TCD and runs until next Sunday. Information on events is available at cancerweek.ie.

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