Sunday 11 December 2016

Cancer trial drugs now seen as 'realistic options'

Published 06/03/2016 | 02:30

There has been an increase in the number of doctors treating cancer patients with experimental medicines Stock photo: PA
There has been an increase in the number of doctors treating cancer patients with experimental medicines Stock photo: PA

Experimental therapies are now seen as "realistic options" for treating cancer in Ireland, a leading medical expert has said.

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Michael O'Dwyer, Professor of Haematology at NUI Galway, said there has been a sea change in attitudes on this front.

This has resulted in more doctors treating patients dying of cancer and other diseases with new medicines in development.

It means patients accessing treatments and drugs which could potentially save their life.

"The pendulum is swinging away from the idea that trials are a treatment of last resort," he told the Sunday Independent.

"Treatments are getting better and we're learning all the time what makes cancer cells evolve. We're increasingly seeing higher rates of response in early phase studies.

"We've got a lot better at investigating new drugs, but if they don't show promise early on in the trial they get binned, and we move on to something else."

His comments come as the Irish Cancer Society announced a €450,000 investment over the next five years in blood cancer research.

The money will support the work of Blood Cancer Network Ireland (BCNI), a new clinical research network for blood cancers. BCNI was established last year to provide patients across Ireland improved access to novel drugs and treatments through early stage clinical trials.

In addition, BCNI will establish a national dedicated blood cancer 'biobank' and patient registry - increasing the amount of clinical research carried out in this country.

Professor O'Dwyer said such a sizeable investment will provide patients with greater access to the best available treatments.

Blood cancers make up approximately 10pc of all cancers and include leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

It is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death in Ireland.

Sunday Independent

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