Irish Cancer Society researcher Naoise Synnott
Date: 
March 21, 2019

Irish women to be first in the world to trial potential new breast cancer treatment

Irish Cancer Society calls on public to give to Daffodil Day volunteers in communities and workplaces today to help ensure more patients can benefit from vital cancer research

Cancer research funded by the public has spurred a potentially life-saving new clinical trial that will directly involve patients here in Ireland.

Today on Daffodil Day, the Irish Cancer Society can reveal that Irish patients will be the first in the world to take part in a new trial to treat one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.

The clinical study will see women with advanced triple negative breast cancer being treated with the drug ‘COTI-2’ in combination with chemotherapy at St. Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH) in Dublin.

The research was carried out by Dr Naoise Synnott in University College Dublin and SVUH. Her work was funded by the Irish Cancer Society’s ‘BREAST-PREDICT’ research programme and the Clinical Cancer Research Trust.

Chief Executive of the Irish Cancer Society Averil Power said: “News like this shows the positive difference cancer research is making for Irish people. Everyone who has donated to the Irish Cancer Society can feel a part of making this clinical trial a reality.

“But we want to do more. Every year we have to turn away researchers who come to us with potentially life-saving projects, simply because we don’t have enough funds to support them.

“The Irish Cancer Society needs the public’s support on Daffodil Day today so that we can fund more research and push for more trials like this one, which give patients the earliest possible access to medical breakthroughs they so desperately need and which we hope will save more lives.”

More than 250 people are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer each year. It is often aggressive, difficult to treat and tends to be more common in younger women.

Caitriona Plunkett had just turned 35 when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in June 2016. The mother-of-two from Dublin had chemotherapy, a mastectomy and reconstruction before receiving the all-clear later that year.

“When I found out I had cancer I was terrified,” she said, “but in the end I’m one of the lucky ones – it was caught early, making treatment more effective. Supports like the Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline got my family and me through this tough time, and we’re stronger now as a result.

“Not everyone with this cancer is as lucky, though. I’ve seen first-hand the devastating effects that treatments for this disease can have. And if they don’t work, the outcome is heart-breaking. That’s why clinical trials that give hope for better, less harsh treatments, are so important.”

Naoise was supervised by Professor Joe Duffy and Professor John Crown. Prof Duffy said: “At the moment the only form of drug treatment available to patients with triple-negative breast cancer is chemotherapy. While this will work well for some patients, others may find that their cancer cells don’t respond as well as might be hoped to chemo, leading to patients suffering the side effects of this treatment without any of the desired outcomes.

“Naoise’s laboratory work looked at p53, a gene which is altered in almost all cases of triple-negative breast cancer. She found that the drug COTI-2 is effective at stopping this gene and killing these cancer cells. Together with further studies in the US, results proved positive enough for early-stage clinical trials to begin.”

It is hoped that the trial, to be funded by Cotinga Pharmaceuticals, will begin recruiting patients later this year. It will be aimed at women whose triple negative breast cancer has spread beyond the breast.

Any cancer patients with queries on clinical trials should talk to their medical team. They can also contact the Irish Cancer Society’s Freephone Cancer Nurseline: 1800 200 700 (lines open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm) or visit one of our Daffodil Centres, located in 13 hospitals across the country (cancer.ie/daffodilcentre). For information on cancer trials currently open in Ireland, please see cancertrials.ie.

Daffodil Day, proudly supported by Boots Ireland, takes place today, Friday March 22, and raises crucial funds to support cancer patients and their families. Please buy a pin from a local volunteer or donate online.