Date: 
September 2, 2019

Irish Cancer Society investment in breast cancer research generates €55 million in additional funding for potentially life-saving work

Breast Cancer Survivor speaks of hope for her daughters

A six-year commitment to breast cancer research, thanks to public donations to the Irish Cancer Society, has translated into an additional €55 million in funding to continue this potentially life-saving work here in Ireland.

The Society’s first ever Collaborative Cancer Research Centre BREAST-PREDICT brought together Ireland’s leading breast cancer experts. Over six years, they shared their expertise to find new ways to predict what treatments would work for each breast cancer patient, so that therapies could be personalised and save more lives. During this time, BREAST-PREDICT has seen major breakthroughs, with thousands of patients involved in research studies.

At a public talk today (Monday 2nd September), Ciara Devine, a breast cancer survivor and patient advocate with Europa Donna Ireland, spoke of the importance of this work from a patient perspective

“When I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer at the age of 36, I immediately thought of my two year old daughter: I didn’t know if I would live to see her grow up. Yet here I am, my daughter is nine years old and she has a little sister. It is a strange feeling to know that if I had been born a few generations earlier, then I probably wouldn’t have survived breast cancer - this far - let alone dreamed of having another child. Decades of painstaking, high-quality research and its careful application saved my life and, crucially, spared my quality of life. We still have a lot of work to do, but to know that excellent, focused research is happening in this country, and even to imagine that my daughters might grow up without fear of breast cancer - this gives me enormous hope.”

Since BREAST-PREDICT began:

  • More than 3,400 Irish breast cancer patients have joined 9 BREAST-PREDICT studies across 15 Irish hospitals, including a potentially life-saving new clinical trial that will see women with an often aggressive and hard-to-treat breast cancer subtype being treated with a new therapy regime in St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin.
  • BREAST-PREDICT currently has 7 breast cancer diagnostic tests in development, and 17 new drugs therapies in pre-clinical testing, including a test to detect which women with early-stage breast cancer can safely avoid chemotherapy treatment.
  • Its 50-plus researchers have produced over 90 BREAST-PREDICT scientific publications to date in high-profile journals, which describe promising research advances likely to improve patient care and add to the global pool of knowledge on breast cancer.

BREAST-PREDICT has ensured that this important work will continue long after the Irish Cancer Society’s initial €7.5 million investment. Already, more than €55 million in additional funding has been leveraged from other sources in academia, industry and state and EU grants, while its researchers and staff have been given training, education and career development support to build the next generation of Irish cancer research leaders.

Commenting on this success, Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society said:

“When BREAST-PREDICT began, it had a huge question to try to answer: how can we better predict which therapies are best for each patient, thus giving all women affected the best possible chance at a long and healthy life?

“Six years on, I’m proud to say that BREAST-PREDICT has had a major impact. It has developed our understanding of breast cancer and made discoveries that will impact future research and treatments here in Ireland and across the world.”

Prof William Gallagher, Director of BREAST-PREDICT and Professor of Cancer Biology at University College Dublin, said:

“It has a great pleasure to lead BREAST-PREDICT over the last 6 years. This amazing group of breast cancer researchers from around Ireland have worked tirelessly to investigate some of the key unanswered questions relating to breast cancer.

“Our researchers have made huge strides in developing better diagnostics and tackling treatment resistance in breast cancer, with several studies leading to key research breakthroughs and clinical trials for breast cancer patients in Ireland.

“While the BREAST-PREDICT research programme officially concludes in 2019, it has left a lasting legacy in providing a model of how world-leading cancer research can be performed in a multi-institutional and truly collaborative manner, for the benefit of patients in Ireland and beyond.

“Thanks to the Irish Cancer Society, the public and, critically, patients whom have supported our endeavours throughout.”