Date: 
October 5, 2017

More than 2,500 breast cancer patients participate in trials linked to Irish Cancer Society Research

Research funded by the Irish Cancer Society has played a key role in more than 2,500 breast cancer patients across Ireland taking part in clinical and translational trials.

Since October 2013, BREAST-PREDICT (the Irish Cancer Society’s first Collaborative Cancer Research Centre) has pooled together the skills and expertise of more than 50 cancer researchers to find better ways to prevent, detect, and treat breast cancer.

The Irish Cancer Society Decoding Cancer event: ‘Tackling Breast Cancer with more Precision’ will tonight see Director of BREAST-PREDICT, Professor William Gallagher, outline the latest advances in our understanding of breast cancer and how targeted treatments are tackling the disease in all its types and forms.

He will describe many of the advances made by Irish researchers in the field, in particular those linked to BREAST-PREDICT, which has given rise to seven breast cancer diagnostic tests in development and 16 novel drug therapies in pre-clinical testing.

The diagnostic tests in development include tests to predict risk of relapse for women diagnosed with breast cancer, and new, potentially more effective tests to monitor patients throughout treatment, to ensure that they are responding well to their medical care.

The new drugs in pre-clinical testing range from some at the early stage of testing, under laboratory conditions, to others which are at or close to the clinical trial stage.

This free public talk takes place tonight (Thursday, 05/10) from 6:15pm in the Mansion House, Dublin, but is fully booked. However, the talk will be available to view on the Irish Cancer Society’s YouTube page from next week.

The event takes place to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October. Throughout the month, the Irish Cancer Society’s ‘Cups against cancer’ campaign is asking people to get their cups out for a good cause and host a fundraising coffee morning. 2,900 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Ireland every year, that’s eight women every day, and money raised from the campaign will be used to fund more lifesaving cancer research and services to support those affected.

For more information or to get involved visit www.cancer.ie/cupsagainstcancer.

Professor Gallagher is Director of BREAST-PREDICT, a country-wide collaboration among experts in the area of breast cancer research, funded through a €7.5 million investment by the Irish Cancer Society. This ‘virtual centre’ was launched in October 2013 and runs for a period of five years.

BREAST-PREDICT brings together researchers from six academic institutions across Ireland: UCD, TCD, RCSI, DCU, NUIG and UCC, and a nationwide clinical trials group, Cancer Trials Ireland. As a multi-disciplinary centre, it unites breast cancer experts with different skills to work towards a common goal.

The centre collects information and tumour samples from nearly every breast cancer patient in the country, with their consent. Using these valuable resources, researchers are improving our understanding of how this disease can spread and become resistant to treatment, and finding ways further improve breast cancer outcome with new and better therapies.

BREAST-PREDICT’s achievements so far include:

  • More than 2,500 patients have joined nine BREAST-PREDICT-affiliated clinical and translational studies to date across 13 Irish hospitals. These patients have consented to their samples being used for research studies. These trials are run through Cancer Trials Ireland. Patients and the public can access information on them through cancertrials.ie.
  • BREAST-PREDICT currently have seven breast cancer diagnostic tests in development, and 16 novel drug therapies in pre-clinical testing.
  • BREAST-PREDICT was pivotal, together with other key entities,in the launch of a new Irish biobank of data that marks a major step forward in breast cancer research here. The National Breast Cancer Resource contains tissue, blood, DNA and RNA samples provided by breast cancer patients. The database currently holds information for more than 7,000 breast cancer cases. Cancer researchers in Ireland and elsewhere can request access to these specimens through nationalbreastcancerresource.ie, so as to generally advance knowledge in the breast cancer area.
  • Its 50-plus researchers have produced 87 BREAST-PREDICT scientific publications to date, comprising of 56 original and 31 review articles published in high-profile journals, several of which describe promising research advances likely to improve patient care.
  • The BREAST-PREDICT team are also working to ensure that this important work will continue long after the Irish Cancer Society’s initial five-year investment. Already more than €40 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 the next generation of Irish cancer research leaders.

Prof Gallagher said: “Breast cancer is not just one disease, but rather a collection of different subtypes. Because of this, researchers look at ways that treatments can be personalised to treat these specific types. As a result, we have seen the drugs Herceptin and Tamoxifen significantly cut the chances of HER2-positive and ER-positive breast cancers recurring in women.

“This personalised approach to research has also greatly improved the way breast cancer is now diagnosed. Better, earlier diagnosis increases a patient’s chance of survival. Today, survival rates for breast cancer have increased to 85% over five years.

“I’m proud to say that, since BREAST-PREDICT began four years ago, Ireland has punched above its weight in the race to tackle breast cancer. The discoveries made in our research centres across the country will give hope for better outcomes and a brighter future for generations of breast cancer patients to come.”

Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, added: “While increasing survival rates are hugely significant, we must not become complacent when it comes to stopping breast cancer in all its forms. Better breast cancer research allows Irish patients to contribute to real research advances and means better patient care, better outcomes, and brings us one step closer to overcoming this disease. That is why the Irish Cancer Society’s continued investment in cancer research – funded through you, the public – is so essential. By hosting a coffee morning and raising your cups against cancer this October, everyone can do their part to help stop breast cancer and save lives.

To speak to a cancer nurse on any aspect of breast cancer contact the Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700, email cancernurseline@irishcancer.ieor drop into one of 13 Daffodil Centres in hospitals nationwide. For information on Daffodil Centre locations and opening times email daffodilcentreinfo@irishcancer.ie.