Across Ireland in labs, universities and hospitals, there are hundreds of people working tirelessly to find out how our cells fight cancer, why some cancers elude treatments and how they can outwit this pervasive and often devastating disease. Thousands more volunteer their time and effort into raising funds, supporting people with cancer, driving patients to treatment and caring for their family and friends.
But what drives this diverse range of committed people to the same essential end – to transform the lives of cancer patients?
During Cancer Week Ireland 2017, which takes place from Monday, 25th September to Sunday, 1st October, the Irish Cancer Society and Trinity College Dublin are asking all cancer researchers, clinicians and volunteers in Ireland to tell the public what drives them to transform the cancer landscape in Ireland. Why did they get involved, what inspired them and what do they hope for the future? They are being asked to take a picture of themselves, their work, or a symbol of their inspiration and post it on social media using #cancerweek to let people know the scale of work and sheer determination that exists around the country to tackle cancer.
Cancer Week Ireland is the brain child of the Irish Cancer Society and Trinity College Dublin and this year, a number of Cancer Week Ireland events will take place up and down the country, encouraging people to be a part of the national conversation about cancer.
Speaking about the week, Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy with the Irish Cancer Society said, “Cancer Week Ireland is an opportunity to start a national conversation about cancer in this country, and what better way to start than by recognising the work of hundreds of dedicated people in cancer research, treatment and support. I got into this area because, with the number of people getting cancer increasing year on year, I saw the challenges that we faced in terms of support services and I also wanted to play a role in ensuring the patient voice was heard at all times. I have quite a straightforward hope for the future: that we will eliminate cancer for good.”
“On a positive note, survival rates in cancer are continually improving, thanks to advances in knowledge of how cancer works and how to treat it. If we look back at the 1980s, about four out of every 10 people would have survived their cancer, living five years beyond treatment. That figure is now heading between six and seven out of every 10 who are diagnosed with cancer, will live for more than five years after their treatment. That is as a result of very hard work and dedication in the area of cancer research, treatment and support. I would encourage everyone to get out there and support Cancer Week and also ask those involved in the area to tell us their story and allow us to celebrate their hard work and efforts.”
Speaking about his experience of working with cancer patients and his hope for the future, Professor of Surgery at Trinity College Dublin and Head of Surgery at St James's Hospital Dublin, John Reynolds said, "Caring for people with cancer, patients for whom you have the knowledge, skills and experience to help, is a rare privilege in anyone's life, and challenges the head and heart in equal measure. Modern advances in science, technology and clinical trials are thankfully increasing cure rates, and provide real optimism for the future. There is never a status quo in cancer, always progress."
Some of the key free events planned for Cancer Week Ireland 2017 are:
- ‘Living Well with Cancer’, the annual National Conference for Cancer Survivorship organised by the Irish Cancer Society, where anyone who has been affected by cancer has an opportunity to gain insight and practical advice that can make a difference in their daily lives (Friday 29th and Saturday 30th September, Aviva Stadium Dublin).
- The public symposium, ‘Cancer Research Frontiers’, hosted by Trinity College Dublin, where
Trinity researchers will shed light on the latest developments in cancer research and potential outcomes for patients, as well as offering lab tours for a behind-the-scenes look into research work (Friday 29th September, Trinity Biomedical Science Institute).
- ‘Living with Secondary Cancer – What Happens Now That It’s Back?’ an event for people living with secondary cancer, where their cancer has spread to other parts of the body (Saturday, 30th September, Aviva Stadium Dublin).
For a full list of events the public can visit www.cancerweek.ie/events
A host of researchers and volunteers have already kicked off the conversation, telling us why they got involved in cancer research and support and what they hope for the future:
Dr Cliona Lorton, Palliative Medicine doctor and Cancer Research Fellow, Trinity:
“Having worked for several years in Palliative Medicine and met hundreds of people and families affected by cancer, I decided I wanted to add to the evidence base in cancer and hopefully help improve care for patients in the future.”
“I hope to see the emergence of truly personalised and holistic medicine with treatment plans tailored to each person's biological profile and individual needs.”
Dr Niamh Lynam-Lennon, Senior Research Fellow, Trinity Translational Medicine Institute:
“I became a cancer researcher because I wanted to improve treatment and survival for cancer patients around the world.”
“I hope that we can move towards a more personalised approach when treating cancer patients, to ensure that each patient receives the correct treatment at the correct time, which will improve their quality of life and survival, making a real impact on the lives of cancer patients and their families.”
Colette Grant, Cancer Nurse with the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Centre in the Bons Secours Hospital, Cork:
“I thought it was an area of nursing that was extremely rewarding, as on a daily basis you make a huge difference to those you care for and your skills and emotions are continually challenged. I would love to see myself searching the jobs section of the paper because they had found a cure for cancer.
“I see the fantastic inroads that are being made through research. It can seem like a series of very small gains, whether its reduced side effects, an extra few months of live, less numbers of reoccurrences due to better treatments, but they are all wins. All of which is very positive for patients, their families and cancer nurse/doctor alike.”
Professor Jacintha O’Sullivan, Professor in Translational Oncology, Trinity College Dublin:
“I work in this area to make a difference to help cancer diagnosis and treatment for patients through the translational research we do in the lab.
“My hope for the future is that through patient oriented research, our translational research findings using novel platforms, and drugs developed in the lab, will be used to enhance a more personalised medical approach to treat each cancer patient, and ultimately improve patient outcome.”
Cormac Clancy, Volunteer Driver and Volunteer Ambassador with the Irish Cancer Society
“Following my own successful cancer treatments, I felt I owed a debt of gratitude to those who treat and support cancer patients, and the Irish Cancer Society is the perfect organisation to help me achieve that.
“My hope is that through support and help we can all make cancer completely treatable, and maybe even eradicate it!”