News and Views

€4.2m of Health Research Board funding announced for UCC patient-focused cancer research group

17 Dec 2021
Health Research Board awards €2.37M to University College Cork for patient-focused cancer cluster research. The Five-year Cancer Research project at the UCC aims to afford greater clinical trial access. Photographed at the announcement were: Head of College of Medicine and Health, Professor Helen Whelton, Professor Roisin M. Connolly, Professor Gerald O'Sullivan Chair in Cancer Research, UCC President, Professor John O’Halloran and CEO South/Southwest Hospital Group Gerry O’Dwyer. Photo By Tomas Tyner, UCC.
  • €2.37m funding from Health Research Board towards €4.2m total
  • Five-year collaborative UCC-HSE project aims to afford greater clinical trial access
  • UCC Cancer Trials will bring together dedicated cancer specialist teams across South of Ireland
  • Project designed to meet demand identified in National Cancer Strategy

Cancer patients in the South and Southwest of Ireland may benefit from greater access to clinical trials as part of a multimillion euro project announced by the College of Medicine and Health at University College Cork (UCC) and Cancer Research @UCC.

Today it was revealed that UCC Cancer Trials Group has been awarded €2.37m by the Health Research Board (HRB) to fund the collaborative five-year project that will bring together a dedicated team of cancer specialists and research staff from across the south of Ireland.This commitment has been met with further contributions from UCC, Cork University Hospital, the South/Southwest Hospital Group, and industry and charity partners to bring the total funding for the UCC Cancer Trials Group, a HRB partnership supporting cancer clinical trials to improve health and care, to €4.2m.

The new cancer trials group will be co-led by Professor Roisin Connolly, the Professor Gerald O'Sullivan Chair in Cancer Research, and Professor Joseph Eustace, Director of the Clinical Research Facility UCC, alongside Site Leads and Principal Investigators from oncology clinical trials units at Cork University Hospital (CUH), the Bons Secours Cork and University Hospital Waterford (UHW).

The project will include outreach to other regional hospitals in the South/Southwest Hospital Group caring for patients with cancer.

These teams will work alongside experts in patient-focused research from the HRB CRF-C and supported by UCC in its role as university partner for the regions’ hospitals.

The National Cancer Strategy 2017 emphasised how important cancer research and clinical trials are in patient care. Patients who participate in clinical trials have better treatment results and quality of life. The team already have a strong track record in patient enrolment in clinical trials, and extensive connections with industry partners and Irish and international research groups.

The strategy has identified a need to provide a more equitable clinical trial access to all patients with cancer in the region, thus bringing more and better treatment options to the table, and the UCC Cancer Trials Group has been designed to meet this demand.

Ms Sonya Lynch, a breast cancer patient advocate, welcomed the news:

"I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2014. Only for cancer research and clinical trials I would not be still here for my family. As a patient who has gone from primary breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer I am all too aware of the complexity of the disease, the impact it has on patients and our families. The collaboration of Cancer Research @UCC teaming with clinical trials units in the region gives us lots of hope for better treatments, better outcomes and better life expectancies. I have every confidence that the ambition of our experts in the South/Southwest region will indeed lead to a centre of excellence for future patients.”

Professor Helen Whelton, Head of the College of Medicine and Health, UCC and Chief Academic Officer (CAO), South/Southwest Hospital Group commented;

‘’Patients experience better quality of health care and better outcomes of treatment where research for patient benefit is integrated in the system. Our goal is to continue to grow research in health care in this region through close partnership between our health care providers and the University in an Integrated Academic Healthcare System for our region. The funding provided for UCC Cancer Trials Group will help to realise our ambition for an academic cancer health system for the region incorporating clinical, research and educational excellence. The team will support clinicians and researchers in expanding investigator-initiated studies and biobanking efforts and will provide an infrastructure to embed research in clinical care. The ultimate goal is to prevent cancer and individualise cancer therapy’’.

Professor Roisin Connolly, the Professor Gerald O'Sullivan Chair in Cancer Research at UCC and Cork University Hospital commented on her five year plan for the UCC Cancer Trials Group:

‘’We are delighted to bring together clinical trial expertise from our regions’ oncology clinical trials units in Cork and Waterford into a new network serving the South of Ireland, and partner this with patient-focused research expertise from UCC. As we expand our clinical trial portfolio our goal is to bring our patient enrolment to clinical trials to the national benchmark (6%) and beyond in line with international centres of excellence. A major focus will be the development of home-grown clinical trials alongside clinical research training opportunities; and we are grateful for support already obtained from the Cork-based charity Breakthrough Cancer Research. Our goals will also be facilitated by significant investment in academic recruitment over the coming years across cancer specialties.’’

UCC President Professor John O’Halloran added;

“A collaborative approach to research for the betterment of society is a key pillar in our strategic plan towards delivering a Connected University in 2022. UCC Cancer Trials Group epitomises our ambition in this regard in developing a partnership across academia, clinical practice, industry and of course patients, whose needs are at the core of this project.

“Today’s announcement and the funding provided by the HRB is a ringing endorsement of the work we do here at UCC, and I wish to congratulate Prof Connolly and all involved in this important initiative.”

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), South/Southwest Hospital Group Gerry O’Dwyer, today commented;

‘’The South/Southwest Hospital Group welcomes the announcement, which marks a positive step forward for healthcare in the region. This project will benefit cancer patients across our region by providing increased access to clinical trials, and a wider variety of different treatment options. The South/South West Hospital Group looks forward to continuing to work with UCC and the specialist research team it is assembling.’’

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