Clinical trials involve testing promising new drugs or combinations of drugs, new therapies, new ways of treating cancer, and new ways of diagnosing cancer.

"They can test surgical techniques, medical devices, physical therapies, and they can investigate blood samples and tissues."

They can also involve testing drugs already licensed for certain disease types which may not have been tried before.

Eibhlin Mulroe, CEO of Cancer Trials Ireland, says that clinical trials are incredibly important, not only for treating patients but also for the HSE.

“For people with cancer, trials can enable them to get early access to new cutting edge cancer treatments which are not yet available through the health service but are available exclusively through trials. They take us closer to finding life-enhancing treatments.”

“Cancer trials are a very active area of research in Ireland and last year, trials saved the HSE more than €6 million in cancer drugs costs.”

 

Cancer Trials Ireland

 

Cancer Trials Ireland was established in 1996 by a group of cancer consultants to make Ireland more attractive to open cancer trials.

It works with the foremost Medical, Surgical and Radiation Oncologists, as well as Haematologists and Research Specialists (Oncology Research Nurses, Translational Scientists, Data Managers, Pharmacists and staff). 

"Gaining access to drugs which are only available exclusively through trials."

“Since we were established, more than 15,000 patients have participated in more than 350 cancer trials,” says Mulroe.

“We have 16 cancer trial research units in hospitals around the country which have highly experienced research teams. These units are carrying out more trials than all other research organisations in Ireland combined.”

 

Irish trials

 

Mulroe says that there are almost 100 cancer trials in Ireland that patients can join if they meet specific criteria. These cover many types of cancers and cancers that are at different stages of treatment and involve thousands of people from across the country.

Cancer Trials Ireland has recently launched their “Just Ask Your Doctor” public information campaign which has been supported by the leading pharmaceutical companies.  

“We are encouraging people to ask their doctor if there’s a trial open that may suit them.”

“Just asking your doctor is a great way to start a conversation and talk about concerns that people might have." While the idea of taking part in a cancer trial can initially be daunting, Mulroe says that the benefits of the trials and the possibility of life-saving treatments can calm any worries the patient might have.

“When patients and their families find out about the potential benefits, the experience of others and the rigorous safety measures and monitoring, they become more comfortable with the idea.

“They also get the support of the cancer research team which is there to help them at every step of the way and talk to them about any questions they may have at any time; before, during or after appointments.”

 

The future

 

Looking to the future, Mulroe says that Cancer Trial Ireland has been making important strategic changes in recent years to grow the number of people who can take part in cancer drug trials.

“We want the number of people with cancer who take part in cancer drug clinical trials to double from 3% to 6%. This would involve the Exchequer increasing its investment in cancer trials by €2.5 million a year.

“We also want the health service to redefine the role of cancer trials within the health service. We want the HSE to accept that cancer trials are treatment options that people with cancer are entitled to choose from. They are not outliers.”

“The alternative to this is that we could miss out on the opportunities that are waiting for us on the horizon.”

 

For more information on cancer trials in Ireland, visit www.cancertrials.ie.