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Professor Ruth Clifford

Consultant Haematologist, University Hospital Limerick

Professor Aedín Culhane

Professor of Biomedical Sciences (Cancer Genomics) in the UL School of Medicine, University of Limerick

The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that real-time data sharing is essential for health research.

Access to novel treatments through clinical trials can lead to improved outcomes for patients with cancer. Here, at University Hospital Limerick, we are partnering with our university and national networks to improve access for patients to novel treatments and new diagnostic platforms. Strong collaboration with the Limerick Digital Cancer Research Centre at the University of Limerick aims to embed data driven cancer research within our hospital. This will ultimately shift the research focus from the laboratory to the clinic.

Improving clinical trial recruitment

The Limerick Digital Cancer Research Centre All-Island eHealth Hub for cancer is a forward-thinking approach that hopes to improve recruitment to clinical trials by understanding the true demographic of cancer in the Irish population.

During the COVID pandemic, frontline health care workers in the Cancer Centres of Ireland witnessed the effects of limited services and delayed diagnoses. Recognising the importance of data intelligence in cancer, the e-health hub will directly address these challenges with data-driven healthcare. This program will facilitate tracking of cancer statistics in real-time by harmonising cancer data across the island and linking with global consortia.

The hub, funded by a €4 million grant under the Shared Ireland North South Research Fund, combines the strength of the Limerick Digital Cancer Research Centre and Cancer Research in Queens University Belfast and will study frameworks and international standards for sharing of electronic health data.

This is a great opportunity for patients in the Mid-West region to join the global research community.

International cancer collaboration

Professor Culhane’s ambitious, all-Island research programme with Professor Mark Lawler at Queen’s University, Belfast aim to link cancer data on the island of Ireland and connect Ireland to the international cancer community.

This is a great opportunity for patients in the Mid-West region to join the global research community, helping to save lives through the application of data science and digital health. Sharing data brings enormous benefits to Ireland as it provides the ability to leverage the knowledge of bigger countries, participate in global clinical trials that study new medicines in cancer and work together to develop better national, EU or global policy in disease treatment and prevention.

Promoting investment and collaboration

Expanded data sets including molecular tumour data will be built into this program. Professor Clifford states: ‘Data will save lives because access to accurate data will lead to more targeted clinical trial recruitment, which in turn will attract more investment from sponsors such as the pharmaceutical industry or international collaborative groups. Partnering with Cancer Trials Ireland and the Blood Cancer Network Ireland, we will promote greater investment in clinical trials in Ireland’.

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