A campaign encouraging people with cancer to ask their doctor about cancer trials has launched.
Cancer Trials Ireland, formerly known as the All-Ireland Cooperative Oncology Research Group (ICORG), wants to increase the proportion of patients on trials from 3% to 5%.
Their Just Ask campaign aims to make the organisation more open and approachable to cancer patients who want to know if there are new treatments for them.
Clinical lead for Cancer Trials Ireland and consultant oncologist, Professor Bryan Hennessy, said it is now accepted around the world that clinical trials are the “cutting edge” for many cancers.
“I have found that people are a little bit suspicious about clinical trials and feel they are human guinea pigs. When people are better informed about the trials and what their purpose is I think they will be more likely to take part in them.
“The medical community around the world now accepts that clinical trials are in many cases the best way to advance treatment and the best way in many cases to treat individual people with cancer,” said Prof Hennessy.
He said they want to initiate and support more investigator-led studies; work with pharmaceutical companies; and broaden their impact across more cancer types: “This growth will further bolster the huge reservoir of scientific knowledge and expertise that we have built over the past 20 years and ensure that people living with cancer continue to access the latest medicines not yet widely available.”
An independent report commissioned by Cancer Trials Ireland estimates that the €3.63m funding from the exchequer and other grants allocated to cancer trials this year will save the HSE at last €6.5m in cancer drug costs.
Rosaline O’Brien, 53, a mother of three grown-up sons, from Cappamore, Co Limerick, is very glad she joined a clinical trial when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013: “I leapt at the chance to be involved. I had no complications and everything went well for me. It is very comforting and reassuring to be in a trial because you are regularly and rigorously checked.”
Rosaline is a nurse at University Hospital Limerick where she is being treated by Dr Linda Coate, consultant medical oncologist. “I was actually diagnosed through BreastCheck and had my surgery in Cork University Hospital. Even though I have been working in the same hospital as Dr Coate I knew nothing of the trial.”
Cliodhna Pearson fromDublin, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an early childhood cancer last October, just weeks after her fourth birthday.
Her parents, Sinéad and Alan Pearson, decided to enrol her in a clinical trial to see how chemotherapy can be less toxic and more successful. It will also investigate the best way to administer immunotherapy.
Sinéad and Alan, who have two other children, are scientists and that helped them to find the right treatment for Cliodhna: “We want to show that the trials are not that scary; that they are done for a good reason. The trial has been beneficial to Cliodhna and we are happy to be involved.”
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