Event at University Hospital Limerick to mark importance of cancer trials

Linda Coate, consultant medical oncologist and director of the Clinical Trials Unit, cancer services, UHL, and Eibhlin Mulroe, CEO, Cancer Trials Ireland at the Cancer Clinical Trials Unit

Linda Coate, consultant medical oncologist and director of the Clinical Trials Unit, cancer services, UHL, and Eibhlin Mulroe, CEO, Cancer Trials Ireland at the Cancer Clinical Trials Unit at UHL

UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick (UHL) is encouraging members of the public to attend an information event on the importance of cancer trials this Thursday.

To mark International Clinical Trials Day 2018, an information stand will be erected in the hospital canteen between 9am and 2pm.

UHL is one of 16 hospital-based cancer trials centres in Ireland, but is the only one in the Mid-West.

The event is one of a number happening in cancer centres around the country in the coming days in partnership with Cancer Trials Ireland, which co-ordinates hundreds of cancer trials around Ireland every year.

The National Cancer Strategy includes a target to double the number of people with cancer who can access cancer drug trials, from the current 3% to 6% by 2020.

Approximately 100 cancer trials are currently recruiting patients in 16 hospitals around Ireland. A further 50 trials are in the data collection and analysis stage. At any one time there could be in the region of 6,000 patients participating in these cancer trials.

Around one in two of all clinical trials in Ireland are cancer trials. At UHL there are currently just over 300 patients taking part in over 30 trials. These include trials for patients with a range of cancers, including lung, breast, multiple myeloma and bladder.

It is planned that this will expand within the next year to include trials for bowel cancer and malignant melanoma.

One such trial currently underway in UHL is known as the MERU cancer trial, investigating the potential of Rova-T (rovalpituzumab tesirine) to treat small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) which accounts for 10-15% of lung cancers. This is a large international Phase III trial and will involve 740 patients around the world.

UHL is one of four Irish cancer centres joining 168 others around the world in this international trial. The lead investigator for Ireland is Dr Linda Coate, Consultant Oncologist, UHL, and Head of Cancer Trials Ireland’s lung cancer group.

According to Dr Coate, the treatments available to date for this type of cancer (SCLC) are limited.

“Unlike other cancers, where progress has changed the face of the disease, the treatments available for this type of lung cancer have changed little in the past 30 years and the outcomes remain generally poor.

“Small cell lung cancer is very aggressive and although patients may experience an initial response to treatment, it is difficult to treat successfully using currently available treatments.

“There is a clear need therefore to continue to look for drugs that might provide hope for the future in this space”, Dr Coate said.

Maureen O'Grady, Clinical Nurse Manager, Clinical Trials Unit, Cancer Services, UHL, said patients taking part in trials did so not only in the hope of improving their own outcomes and quality of life but also because they recognised the importance of research in helping scientists better understand cancer - to help prevent it, to help detect it and to develop treatments.

Ms O’Grady said Herceptin, one of the most widely used chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer patients, was just one drug where clinical trials had involved patients in Limerick.

“New and more effective approaches cannot be developed without cancer trials,” said Ms O’Grady.

“All cancer treatments used today were once tested through a cancer trial. Cancer trials allow access to new drugs and treatments and help us increase our knowledge on the best way to deliver these treatments. By taking part in a cancer trial patients help to test new ways to detect and treat cancer,” she added.

For inquiries on Cancer Clinical Trials at UHL, please contact 061 482531