WHI Galway

Major Irish Cancer Society research programme extended to Galway

Trial supports for female cancer patients announced during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

A major research programme with a focus on improving support for women during and after cancer treatment that is funded by the Irish Cancer Society has been extended to Galway, the charity has announced.

Each year in Ireland around 5,000 women are diagnosed with breast and gynaecological cancers, which includes cancers of the cervix, ovaries, uterus (womb), vagina and vulva.

The first programme of its kind in the country, the Irish Cancer Society Women’s Health Initiative supports a range of studies including the LYSA (Linking You to Advice and Support) trial led by cancer researchers in University College Cork.

A team of researchers at the University of Galway and University Hospital Galway led by Consultant Surgeon Prof Aoife Lowery are now bringing the LYSA trial to the west of Ireland, where it will be trialled by selected participants who have undergone cancer treatment at the hospital.

The initiative had up to now only been available through hospitals in Dublin and Cork.

It explores a new model of linking women into symptom management supports for a range of issues that can continue to have severe impacts even after completing cancer treatment such as pain, premature menopause and psychological distress.

The innovative initiative aims to test the effectiveness of special psychological and dietary supports for women to manage their symptoms through both hospital-based clinics and purpose-built online platforms.

Along with providing active support for women’s post-treatment symptoms, the Galway arm of the Women’s Health Initiative will have a novel project whereby participants’ heart health will be monitored and tested for side-effects associated with their treatment.

It is expected this will improve understanding of any possible link between treatment, particularly chemotherapy for breast cancer, and heart conditions, including who may be vulnerable or at risk, so that this can be addressed more effectively before and during treatment.

Commenting on the rollout of the Women’s Health Initiative to Galway, Prof Aoife Lowery said: “It is fitting that we are able to announce the trialling of this new support for patients in the west of Ireland during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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While this approach will be available to selected patients who have undergone early-stage treatment for breast and gynaecological cancers, it is tremendous to be able to bring forward-looking projects like this to what is a thriving cancer research environment across the University of Galway and University Hospital Galway at the moment.

Prof Aoife Lowery, Irish Cancer Society funded researcher
Aoife Lowery

"I would like to pay special credit to Prof Roisin Connolly, Prof Josephine Hegarty and their team at University College Cork with whom we have worked closely on their LYSA trial which has been up and running as part of the Irish Cancer Society Women’s Health Initiative since it started in 2020, and we will be basing our approach in Galway on this model."

Irish Cancer Society Acting Head of Research Dr Claire Kilty said: “We are delighted to be able to make innovative cancer research projects such as our Women’s Health Initiative available to women across different parts of the country including Galway, so that more women can potentially benefit from the great progress being made in this space.

“It is only through the support of the public that we are able to invest in vital cancer research aimed at improving the lives of patients. This kind support is all the more appreciated amid current circumstances, and it helps to make hope possible for patients and their loved ones.”

Funding support of nearly €1 million from the Irish Cancer Society for the Women’s Health Initiative has helped leverage a investment by a consortium including Pfizer, the HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme and Breakthrough Cancer Research, as well as the National Breast Cancer Research Institute who are supporting the Galway arm of the programme.