News and Views

UCC research staff honoured for Cancer care

25 Mar 2022
Sonya Lynch and Dr Laia Raigal

Today is Daffodil Day, Ireland’s annual national fund raising day for cancer care and UCC is highlighting staff and a patient advocate who have been playing a significant role in a unique cancer care study.

Douglas woman Sonya Lynch has used her experience of metastatic breast cancer to help others and a UCC staff member, Dr Laia Raigal, were honoured recently at the annual Irish Cancer Society Research Awards. 

Sonya Lynch has been an integral partner to the Linking You to Support & Advice (LYSA) study since its inception, offering her own insights and experiences since first being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 to help inform how women are supported at the CUH clinic to deal with difficult side effects that can arise from cancer treatment. 

The LYSA study under the direction of Prof Roisin Connolly, a CUH-based medical oncologist and Chair of Cancer Research at UCC, with co-principal investigator Professor Josephine HegartyHead of School of Nursing and Midwifery, UCC, is part of the Irish Cancer Society’s Women’s Health Initiative which is researching how women can be best supported through what has traditionally been an underappreciated aspect of the cancer journey. The study is funded by the Irish Cancer Society and Breakthrough Cancer Research. In addition, the LYSA Trial is one of the Academic Research studies supported by the new UCC Cancer Trials Group at Cancer Research @ UCC, a HRB partnership supporting cancer clinical trials to improve health and care, to €4.2m. 

Sonya was named as the Society’s first ever Public & Patient Involvement Champion of the Year, an award that acknowledges the contribution of the public and patients who are at the heart of its research projects, helping to ensure that they are meaningful and of benefit to those affected by cancer.  

Commenting on her award, Sonya said: 

Working as a patient advocate has given me a voice; and not that I speak for every person, but I know what it is like to go through treatment with young children, to lose your hair and go through these experiences that other people go through, and I have brought all those experiences to the team. It has empowered me to address issues that I might not otherwise have been able to address in public. As a cancer patient I’m really grateful for all the work that is going on with the study. It’s gratifying for me to see that structures are coming into place as a result of the work that we have been involved in that will benefit patients into the future, including elements that I feel would have helped me along the way. 

Also honoured on the night for her important contribution to the innovative clinic – which offers help and advice to a selected group of participants recruited through the research study – was team member Dr Laia Raigal

Dr Raigal was awarded Research Support Staff of the Year for her role in pushing the study forward even as Covid squeezed hospital teams, helping to recruit patients into the study and to capture reliable data so that the effectiveness of the novel model can be rigorously monitored. 

Dr Raigal said:

I always put my heart and everything into my job. I’m so passionate about research as I feel it has so much benefit, and it gives us evidence as to how we can do things better. Whenever I am involved in a project I try my utmost to keep things going, so for me an award like this means a lot in acknowledging my efforts, and that my team have recognised me.

Congratulating the winning pair Professor Roisin Connolly stated: 

Providing opportunities for our patients with cancer regionally to optimise support and quality of life is a priority for our team. We are delighted that the hard work of Dr Laia Raigal and Ms Sonya Lynch in supporting the LYSA trial has been recognized by the Irish Cancer Society, and are excited about expanding opportunities here in Cork for men with cancer and those living with advanced cancer.

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