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Wexford doctor leads cancer breakthrough

A NORTH Wexford Doctor is leading a team which has pioneered a new combination treatment for an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Dr. Joe O'Sullivan, of Scarnagh, Inch, who is conducting the research with a team at Queen's University Belfast, said this week that the new technique could possibly be applied to certain other types of cancer such as breast cancer.

'It's quite a novel approach,' he said. 'It hasn't been done this way before. It's the first time this combination has been used. Breast cancer would probably be the other type of cancer where this might work, but it's still early days. Clinical tests take a long time, and you have to go quite slowly.'

The treatment, aimed at men with an advanced and aggressive form of prostate cancer which has spread to the bone, is the first of its kind to be developed. It combines traditional chemotherapy treatments with two doses of a radioactive chemical which can target areas of the bone affected by prostate cancer.

Aggressive and advanced prostate cancer is responsible for more than 10,000 deaths each year in Ireland and the UK.

The results of the first phase of the trial, which are published in the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, demonstrate that it is safe and feasible to combine multiple injections of the radioactive chemical (Rhenium-186 HEDP) along with standard chemotherapy in men with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Dr O'Sullivan is Consultant and Senior Lecturer in Clinical Oncology at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen's University, and leader of the study.

' The second phase of the trial has already commenced in The Netherlands and will start in the UK within six months,' he said.

Dr. O'Sullivan has been based in Belfast for the past eight years, having previously worked at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. His parents, Joe and Mary still live in Scarnagh, while his sister Maria Healy lives in Gorey, and his brother Barry lives in Ferns. While he's kept busy with work up North, he said he still finds time to visit home every few months.

News of the breakthrough made international media headlines last week. 'People are hungry for good news,' said Dr. O'Sullivan, who was interviewed by BBC, UTV, SKY News, and RTE last week.