RESEARCHING A BRIGHTER FUTURE
Professor Joe O'Sullivan, Consultant Clinical Oncologist and Clinical Lead for Radiotherapy, plays a central role in ‘Friends’ research programmes, and oversees radiotherapy and prostate cancer research at the NI Cancer Trials Centre (NICTC).
In the last five years, Friends of the Cancer Centre has channeled nearly £500,000 to NICTC for various research projects and posts, with a further £125,000 committed for 2012. One such post was filled by Stacey Hetherington (as pictured below
with Joe), a research radiographer.
Professor O’Sullivan explains, “Much of the research we undertake is clinical and directly involves patients. If a trial is available and suitable for a patient’s situation, they’ll be offered the chance to participate by their oncologist. Understandably patients are hoping it offers the chance to access new and potentially better treatments but many people are also motivated by the desire to help others.
“Northern Ireland has seen a huge increase in the numbers taking part in clinical trials over the past five years, particularly in the field of Radiotherapy, which is making a positive impact on our work in the Cancer Centre.”
NICTC have had some notable successes, not least with regard to bringing discoveries made by laboratory research undertaken alongside Queen's University to the clinic. Professor O’Sullivan states, “We may be relatively small but we punch well above our weight internationally. I am currently very excited about a number of ‘home grown’ clinical trials, including a trial of a Bladder Scanner in prostate cancer and a study examining a new type of marking device for breast cancer radiotherapy patients.” Paul Burns (as pictured with Joe below), is a prostate cancer patient who is taking part in a clinical trial.
The potential benefits for any breakthrough can be enormous … but they can be a long time coming. Professor O’Sullivan continues, “however results for many of the recent drug trials in prostate cancer for example have been available within a few months of the completion of the trial which is fantastic news for patients.
“With research you can’t give an exact timescale or be precise about results because you can’t know what any study may yield. However, research offers the opportunity to promote the highest standard of care for our patients and to improve their lives and those of future patients with cancer.
“Getting funding for clinical research, in particular funding of staff costs, is very difficult these days and at a time when health budgets are under considerable pressure we are extremely grateful to Friends of the Cancer Centre who have had the courage and foresight to invest in the potential for better treatments and improved patient outcomes.
“By supporting ‘Friends’, the public helps ensure high quality cancer research can continue in Northern Ireland - helping patients now and in the future.”