Sporting legends support opening of UHL Cancer Clinical Trials Unit

UHL Cancer Clinical Trials Unit

Pictured at the opening of the new UHL Cancer Clinical Trials Unit at University Hospital Limerick were All-Ireland winners Noel McGrath and Richie Bennis; Dr Linda Coate; Consultant Medical Oncologist, UL Hospitals Group; Prof Rajnish Gupta, Regional Director of Cancer Services for the MidWest; Eibhlin Mulroe, CEO, Cancer Trials Ireland and Marcus Horan. Pic. Brian Arthur

The newly renovated UHL Cancer Clinical Trials Unit at University Hospital Limerick has been officially opened this Wednesday, November 30 by Eibhlin Mulroe, CEO, Cancer Trials Ireland.

Coming at the end of November a month devoted to awareness of men’s health issues and men’s cancers in particular, the event was supported by All-Ireland winning hurlers Noel McGrath (Tipperary) and Richie Bennis (Limerick), both of whom have had cancer treatment at UHL. Legendary Clare hurling manager Ger Loughnane, a fellow cancer survivor, also supported the opening. 

Another in attendance was Grand Slam and European Cup winning rugby hero Marcus Horan. Marcus was representing his close friend and former Shannon, Munster and Ireland team-mate, the late Anthony Foley. Anthony’s parents, Brendan and Sheila, also attended the opening. 

Anthony was a member of the board of the Mid-Western Cancer Foundation and was keenly aware of the importance of cancer trials. He was at the Limerick unit only last May to celebrate International Clinical Trials Day and had been looking forward to attending this week’s opening. 

UHL Cancer Clinical Trials Unit

Pictured at the opening of the new Cancer Clinical Trials Unit at University Hospital Limerick were Maureen O’Grady, Clinical Nurse Manager; Sheila and Brendan Foley; Dr Linda Coate; Consultant Medical Oncologist, UL Hospitals Group and Prof Rajnish Gupta, Regional Director of Cancer Services for the MidWest. Pic: Brian Arthur.

UHL is one of 14 hospital-based cancer trials research centres in Ireland and the only one in the MidWest region.

 Ms Mulroe, CEO, of Cancer Trials Ireland, which co-ordinates hundreds of cancer trials around Ireland every year, commented: “Patients who take part in trials make a profound community contribution.  What they do is really important. They are making a unique contribution to answering the really important cancer research questions which might help others in the future. 

 In return we hope participation will help them and enable them get access to treatments and drugs not available through any other avenue. “

 “I want to sincerely thank the people who have made that decision to go on a trial and are helping highly committed research teams around the country find the answers to cancer. If you would like to find out what cancer trials are available please just ask your doctor – your oncologist or indeed your GP. That’s our appeal – Just Ask. You can also go on www.cancertrials.ie and find out what trials are open at the moment”, she continued. UHL Cancer Clinical Trials Unit

Marcus Horan said Anthony Foley had been a great supporter of cancer services in the MidWest. 

“When the nurses got on to me to see if I could step in for Axel, I just jumped at it. His involvement here was something he was very proud of and he would have loved to have been able to see through to the opening. It is a great honour to be here today, especially with his parents Brendan and Sheila,” said Marcus. 

Noel McGrath, who was named Tipperary Person of the Year 2016 by the Tipperary Association Dublin for his cancer awareness work, stressed the importance of patients taking part in trials. Noel rebounded from being treated for cancer last year to winning a second All-Ireland medal in September. 

“I was very well looked after here; had treatment and a positive outcome at the end. For people that have not had as good an outcome as me, it is about trying to prevent as many of those cases as possible and to help as many people as we can. Initiatives like this, especially here in Limerick where the oncology unit is very good, any steps we can take to make it even better is a very positive thing,” said Noel.

Richie Bennis, an All-Ireland winner with Limerick in 1973, was treated for cancer in UHL in 2009. 

“Trials are very important,” said Richie, “and anything in the line of cancer that either encourages people to first of all get check-ups and then get treatment, I am delighted to support. Trials save lives and if something saves lives, everybody should do it.”

The new unit at UHL has been renovated with the help of charitable donations and is located in a space previously occupied by breast cancer services prior to their move to the Leben Building earlier this year. Two new research nurse positions and a number of administrative posts have also been approved by UL Hospitals Group to support the Clinical Trials Unit and make more trials available to patients in the MidWest. 

Maureen O’Grady, Clinical Nurse Manager, Clinical Trials Unit, Cancer Services, UHL commented: “New and more effective approaches cannot be developed without cancer trials. All cancer treatments used today were once tested through a cancer trial. Cancer trials allow access to new drugs and treatments and help us increase our knowledge on the best way to deliver these treatments. By taking part in a cancer trial patients help to test new ways to treat cancer. Patients gain access to drugs otherwise unavailable to them”. 

Dr Linda Coate, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Director of the Clinical Trials Unit, Cancer Services, added, “Currently in Cancer Services, UHL, we have 290 patients under our care participating in 35 trials. We act as an Irish referral site for a number of exciting therapeutic trials”. 

Dr Coate was recently elected Vice Clinical Lead by the Clinical Executive of Cancer Trials Ireland, and this was a ringing endorsement of her work and that of all the team in UHL, according to UL Hospitals Group CEO Colette Cowan. UHL Cancer Clinical Trials Unit

“I want to congratulate Dr Coate on her election, which is a real coup for all of us at UL Hospitals Group. We are delighted to see the Cancer Clinical Trials Unit move into their new home and that they now have extra research nurses and administrative to assist in their important work. The incidence of cancer in Ireland will increase significantly in the coming years. And while treatments and survival rates are improving, there is still so much we don’t understand about this disease. I am delighted that UHL is playing and will continue to play its part in the international effort to understand it better,” said Ms Cowan. 

Read more about UHL Cancer Clinical Trials Unit here.

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