New Irish Cancer Society research offers hope for breast cancer patients resistant to treatment

Majella O’Donnell supports fight against breast cancer as she launches Society’s ‘Cups against cancer’ campaign

Majella O’Donnell is backing ‘Cups against cancer’, a new breast cancer campaign to fund more research, following new findings by Irish Cancer Society researchers that may help treat breast cancer patients in the future.

Scientists from BREAST-PREDICT, an Irish Cancer Society Collaborative Cancer Research Centre with researchers at 6 universities around Ireland, and Cancer Trials Ireland, have found a potential way to treat one of the most common types of breast cancer.

It comes as the Society launches its new Cups against cancer fundraising campaign, with the support of breast cancer survivor Majella O’Donnell, who is asking people to get their cups out for a good cause and host a coffee morning in October. 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.

BREAST-PREDICT researcher Prof Leonie Young and Dr Sara Charmsaz have found a new way to monitor the treatment of Estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer patients. Women with this form of breast cancer, which is one of the most commonly diagnosed, usually take drugs such as Tamoxifen or Aromatase Inhibitors to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back. However, some of these patients can become resistant to these treatments and their cancer returns. Prof Young and Dr Charmsaz have found that ER-positive women with high levels of the biomarker S100Beta in their blood are significantly more likely to have disease recurrence. 

Professor Young explained, “The early detection of patients with treatment resistance enables a different strategy to be put in place which can significantly improve these patient’s survival. We hope these findings can lead to a clinical trial in the future, with patients potentially benefitting from these new monitoring strategies which could increase survival of patients.”

Four years on from her own fight with breast cancer, Majella O’Donnell launched Cups against cancer to fund lifesaving breast cancer research and supports to help other women affected by the disease. 

Majella O’Donnell said, “When I found out I had breast cancer I was shocked. The treatment was tough and it was difficult emotionally. Thankfully there are a lot of supports available and more advances are being made as a result of cancer research which is improving the outcome for breast cancer patients. It’s fantastic to see new discoveries being made, but these developments are reliant on donations so in order to fight back against this disease we need to raise funds.
“This year over 2,900 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer here in Ireland. That’s eight women a day. These are our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends and they need our support. So please, sign up at and get your cups out for a good cause this October.”

The Irish Cancer Society relies almost entirely on voluntary donations made by the public and companies to fund its work for breast cancer patients. Money raised through Cups against cancer will help to provide advice and support to breast cancer patients through the Freephone Cancer Nurseline and 13 Daffodil Centres around the country, fund transportation for chemotherapy patients through the Volunteer Driver Service and nursing care at home for end of life patients through the Night Nursing Service. 

Mark Mellett, Head of Fundraising with the Irish Cancer Society said, “This October your cup of coffee can make a real difference. Get your friends or workmates together for a Cups against cancer coffee morning during breast cancer awareness month and make sure our researchers continue to find better ways to diagnose and treat this disease. Your cup of coffee can ensure a woman who has just been diagnosed has the correct information and support to help her through such a frightening and worrying time, and it can even ensure patients can get to their chemotherapy appointments. We want to continue to be there for people on every step of their cancer journey, but we can’t deliver these services or fund lifesaving research without the public’s help.”

For more information or to get involved visit