Health

Monday 22 September 2014

Male cancers 'neglected' infunds shareout

A HUGE divide has emerged in the amount of research money being pumped into male and female cancers.

The gap means male cancers are being neglected in the share-out of millions of euro of funding, including public donations.

Data obtained by the Irish Independent reveals the most common male-only form of the disease, prostate cancer, gets a fraction of the funding common female cancers get.

Underlining the poor funding for male cancers, testicular cancer research has received no funding at all from the Irish Cancer Society in the past two years or the HRB in the last six.

An analysis of funding figures reveals:

• One of the main funding bodies in the area, the Health Research Board (HRB), has spent just €62 on research per prostate cancer diagnosis over the past six years.

• This compares with €477 spent per ovarian cancer diagnosis, €453 for each new cervical cancer case, and €288 for each new breast cancer.

• Total HRB research funding for female-only cancers between 2007 and 2012 was €6,602,199, while the body's research fund for male-only cancers was €1,086,291 in the same period.

• The All Ireland Co-operative Oncology Research Group (ICORG), has 17 studies open on breast cancer and just four on prostate cancer.

Nearly 3,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in Ireland this year – the highest incidence in Europe.

Dr Syed Jaffrey, a urologist at Galway University Hospital who treats prostate cancer patients and researches the disease said: "I don't know whose fault it is but there is a big imbalance in funding. In prostate cancer we need more tools to find out what is aggressive and less aggressive. Currently there is an obvious lack in this area and Ireland is lagging behind."

Dr Seamus O'Reilly, a medical oncologist at Cork University Hospital, pictured, who treats male and female patients, said "Prostate cancer survival has increased but the impact has been more dramatic in breast cancer. I think it is safe to say the breast cancer movement has been at the vanguard of advocacy and it has shown the benefits of investing in research which had a beneficial knock-on for other diseases."

The Irish Cancer Society acknowledged a female bias in cancer research but said it has been striving to eliminate gender inequality.

Maura Hiney, the HRB's head of policy, said the reason for the skew towards funding of female cancer was not obvious.

"The majority of our funding is open call. This means the idea for the research topic comes from a researcher. All proposals are evaluated by rigorous international peer review."

Dr Brian Moulton, chief executive of ICORG, said its choice of research is ratified by its executive, "which is a top-level committee whose membership includes senior cancer clinicians from every cancer-treating hospital in the country."

Asked why breast cancer research remained so dominant, he said: "For me the breast cancer advocacy movement in the US is to be admired.

"It has been criticised for gaining too much attention and a disproportionate share of funding but in truth they were the first one off the blocks and pioneered promotion of cancer research."

Men's cancers started more slowly but "in recent years (they are) catching up, they still have not yet reached a point where they could be satisfied with the level of investment or priority given to men's cancers but they have good momentum and are moving in the right direction," he added.

Irish Independent

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