Specialist wants clinical trials for teenage cancer sufferers
One of the country's top paediatric cancer specialists has said the nation needs to introduce clinical trials for teenagers to stop them "falling through the cracks".
Professor Owen Smith, Chair of Haematology in Trinity College's School of Medicine, said it is vitally important to include youngsters in programmes if we want Ireland to enter the "Premier League of cancer treatment countries".
"The most important thing for treatment schemes in Ireland is that children are entered into clinical trials," said Prof Smith, who is also a consultant haematologist at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin.
"More importantly from our point of view is that special trials are made available for older children.
"Children between the ages of 16 and 21 ... are currently falling between two stools," he said.
"Trials that are out there at the moment are not designed to specifically capture that age group. They are normally aimed at the one to 16 age bracket, the adult ones start from the age of 21 to 81.
"We need to go out and take the group being ignored, make the diagnosis, get them treated and get them cured," he added.
"It's hard to get teenagers to brush their teeth when they are supposed to, let alone take medications when they are sick.
"I am sure we have lost a number of teenagers over the years for this reason."
Prof Smith also said that cancer in this age group is continuing to increase and noted the need for a specialist teenager cancer unit.
The Irish Clinical Oncology Research Group (ICORG), the body responsible for implementing clinical trials in Ireland, says it is currently facing a 20pc cut in its Government funding.
"This funding is vital so that we can continue to develop new schemes and save lives," said ICORG CEO Eibhlín Mulroe.