'I would not be alive today if it wasn't for cancer clinical trials'

Seamus Cotter was diagnosed with the most serious and life-threatening stage of lung cancer four years ago but beat the odds and survived the disease thanks to a clinical trial.
'I would not be alive today if it wasn't for cancer clinical trials'
Seamus Cotter

Seamus Cotter was diagnosed with the most serious and life-threatening stage of lung cancer four years ago but beat the odds and survived the disease thanks to a clinical trial.

The father of three from Ennis, Co Clare, now sits on Cancer Trials Ireland's patient consultation committee.

“I was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer in May 2016. I was lucky enough to be eligible for a cancer clinical trial, and by April 2017 the scan showed up clear, as has every scan since then,” said Mr Cotter.

“I would not be alive today if it wasn't for cancer clinical trials.”

Mr Cotter, 50, who works in the aviation sector in Shannon, Co Clare, was given around 18 months to live when he received the results of the biopsy.

He agreed to take immunotherapy drugs as part of a clinical trial instead of going for the standard chemotherapy treatment.

More than a third of the clinical trials taking place in Ireland are investigating either a medicine, treatment or intervention are cancer clinical trials. At any one time there could be around 6,000 patients on a cancer trial in Ireland.

There are 209 clinical trials open to recruiting new patients in Ireland of which 78 are cancer clinical trials.

Chief executive of Cancer Trials Ireland, Eibhlín Mulroe, said that despite Covid-19, the cancer research sector is as committed and as proactive as ever.

“I want to recognise and applaud our funders, including the Health Research Board and the Irish Cancer Society, for their unwavering commitment to cancer research during the pandemic,” she said when the charity marked today International Clinical Trials Day.

Clinical lead with Cancer Trials Ireland, Prof Bryan Hennessy, said access to a trial could be the best treatment option for people with cancer in Ireland when the standard treatments are not working: “It is important that we are able to offer these options as all times despite any societal turbulence.

It is critical that we are able to create an infrastructure for clinical trials that can withstand a public health emergency or any other situation that puts up additional barriers to patient participation in trials.

Director of research at the Irish Cancer Society, Dr Robert O'Connor, said the ongoing generosity of people allows the ICS to keep supporting Cancer Trials Ireland as part of their investment in-life-saving research:

“Cancer does not stop because of an emergency situation and Cancer Trials Ireland is playing an important role in gathering information on the impact of coronavirus on cancer treatment while it continues to investigate new ways to improve cancer outcomes all across the country."

Irish researchers are currently involved in a number of studies on the impact of Covid-19 on people with cancer.

Clinical Trials Ireland is supporting an observational study to better understand the effect that the coronavirus is having on patients who have contracted the virus.

The COVID-IYON study taking place across 12 cancer care and malignant haematology care centres is led by Prof Linda Coate and Dr Colm MacEochagain from the University of Limerick.

Prof Coate said there is an urgent need for clinical data to support decision making in the care of cancer patients, and to provide strong evidence for national and international care guidelines on Covid-19 and cancer care.

“Through the COVID-IYON study we will be able to determine the impact the virus is having on the cancer patients who have contracted Covid-19 and provide real time analysis to inform treatment during this crisis and help prepare for future eventualities."

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