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Trinity researcher champions the involvement of those impacted by lung cancer in cancer research

More than 2,700 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year in Ireland, and lung cancer accounts for approximately 1 in 5 of all cancer related deaths. It takes more lives than breast cancer in females and prostate cancer in males. Through improved understanding of lung cancer biology in the past few decades, we have witnessed the advent of new therapies, such as those targeted towards specific mutations within the tumour and immunotherapy. Despite these advances, only about one in five individuals with lung cancer are still alive 5 years after diagnosis.

As Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2021 draws to a close, we spoke to Dr Anne-Marie Baird, a Senior Research Fellow at the Trinity Translational Medicine Institute, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin. Dr Baird is a molecular biologist working in prostate and lung cancer. Specifically, she is interested in inflammation in lung carcinogenesis and drug resistance and, more recently, platelet education and metastasis. Dr Baird is particularly interested in lung cancer advocacy at a national and European level and works tirelessly to influence policy change and inspire patient-driven research. Dr Baird, along with a small group of others, formed the Irish Lung Cancer Community earlier this year:

The Irish Lung Cancer Community was formed as a need was identified for a specific lung cancer organisation within Ireland. Earlier this year a group of individuals came together to develop the idea, including people with lung cancer, those in a caregiving capacity, and lung cancer advocates. We are now a growing community and our vision is that all people impacted by lung cancer in Ireland will have the best chance of survival and live life as well as possible. Our mission is to be the voice of people impacted by lung cancer in Ireland by empowering our community through education, information and support.

As well as her advocacy work in Ireland, Dr Baird is currently president of Lung Cancer Europe (known as LuCE), a European non-profit umbrella organisation with more than 30 members from more than 20 European Countries. Dr Baird started as an ambassador for the organisation and was then elected to the board before becoming president in May 2020. Dr Baird described LuCE’s objectives:

LuCE aims to be the voice of people impacted by lung cancer in Europe, working to improve outcomes for the community by advocating and working towards improved access to diagnostics, treatment and care across the entire care pathway. We are also working to tackle the stigma associated with the disease. My work with LuCE involves many different aspects such as councils and steering committees. However, everything we do is centralised around education, advocacy and awareness for the lung cancer community.

Dr Baird was one of three winners of the Irish Cancer Society Cancer Research Engagement Awards, announced on the 17th of November. These awards aim to ensure that the research funded by the Society will have an impact and make a difference to those affected by cancer. Currently few people impacted by lung cancer are involved in cancer research. Dr Baird’s project aims to increase education and awareness on what lung cancer research is, why it is important for the lung community, and why it is important for people living with the disease to have an input. Dr Baird explained:

“Despite the number of lives impacted by lung cancer, the amount of money spent on lung cancer research does not match the serious impact of this disease. Therefore, it is essential to improve education and awareness of what lung cancer research is, and why it is so important. It is hoped that sharing information and knowledge and engaging with people living with this disease it will help people understand the research process and become more involved with it. It will also prepare people in the community to promote patient driven research, identifying the needs in their community and working with researchers to come up with research projects to address those needs.”

As well as her research work, being president of LuCE, and her advocacy work, Dr Baird is also immediate past chair of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) Communications committee, and somehow finds the time to serve as a mentor on the IASLC STARS (Supportive Training for Advocates on Research and Science) programme! Dr Baird acknowledged the continued invaluable guidance and support from her Principal Investigator, Professor Orla Shields, as well as the wider research community within Trinity College Dublin. She also praised the support received from the PPI Ignite Office in Trinity College Dublin.

For more information on Lung Cancer, see here: https://www.cancer.ie/cancer-information-and-support/cancer-types/lung-cancer