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Cancer experts from Ireland meet with US Congressional Caucus 

By Priscilla Lynch - 30th Mar 2024

US Congressional Caucus

The Congressional Caucus heard how a unique partnership has significantly increased both the quality and quantity of cancer research across the island of Ireland

A delegation of leading cancer specialists from across the island of Ireland recently met with and briefed the influential US Congressional Cancer Caucus on how a quarter of a century of transatlantic collaboration has delivered significant impacts in cancer research and care on the island of Ireland.

The Irish delegation, made up of leading participants in the All-Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI), met with the members of the US Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington DC as part of the Ireland-Northern Ireland- US engagement to mark St Patrick’s Day in March.

Prof William Gallagher

The island of Ireland delegation was jointly led by Prof William Gallagher, University College Dublin (UCD), Prof Mark Lawler, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, and included Prof Jarushka Naidoo, RCSI/Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, and Ciaran Briscoe, CEO, North East Cancer Research and Education Trust, Ireland.

Members of Congress were briefed on the impact of the Ireland-Northern Ireland-US National Cancer Institute Cancer Consortium, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The Consortium, established in 1999 following the Good Friday agreement, has helped foster significant collaboration both between scientists and health professionals on the island of Ireland and with their counterparts in the US.

Prof Mark Lawler

Prof Jarushka Naidoo

The Congressional Caucus heard how this partnership has significantly increased both the quality and quantity of research across the island of Ireland, contributing to saving thousands of lives and enhancing the quality-of-life of cancer survivors.

The delegation highlighted the progress that has been made through this unrivalled tripartite approach and how it has acted as a springboard for the development of AICRI in the autumn of 2020. This unique collaboration of 10 universities across the island of Ireland, along with other key stakeholders, is dedicated to delivering high-quality cancer research and innovation, in order to ensure state-of-the art cancer care for all. AICRI is bringing together the combined strengths of cancer researchers across the island of Ireland to tackle cancer, linking with the US and other international colleagues in Europe. Its mission is to provide an overarching framework for cancer research across the island of Ireland, from discovery to implementation, for the benefit of cancer patients and wider society. UCD and Queen’s University Belfast have also recently formed a joint cancer partnership, providing key resources to drive forward cross-border and all-island collaborations in cancer research.

This month, April, the island of Ireland will be a unique bridge between Europe and the US, with the high-level ‘Euro-American Forum on Cancer’ taking place in Dublin’s Farmleigh House on 25-26 April

Speaking at the event, Prof Gallagher, Professor of Cancer Biology at UCD and Co-Lead of AICRI, highlighted how the establishment of AICRI and its ambitious agenda has greatly enhanced cancer research on the island of Ireland. He also emphasised the potential for continuing and expanding transatlantic partnership in cancer research. “AICRI is a virtual institute, whereby all the necessary skills and diverse expertise required to properly address the complexities of cancer, are being brought together across the island of Ireland. Through our work, we will gain a better understanding of cancer, develop more personalised treatment options, and ease suffering and save lives. AICRI will also help to deepen North/South and international collaboration. Our journey to develop AICRI has heavily benefited from prolonged US-Ireland collaboration in cancer research over decades. Indeed, with over half of the leading oncologists on our island having trained in the top 10 Cancer Centres in the US, the linkages between our countries in fundamental, translational, and clinical research are exceptionally strong. Cancer knows no borders.”

The event was also addressed by Prof Lawler, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor and Professor of Digital Health at Queen’s University Belfast and Co-lead of AICRI, who said: “It is unprecedented that an all-island delegation should address the US Congressional Cancer Caucus here on Capitol Hill, but it reflects the achievements of this unique transatlantic partnership, ensuring that 35,000 patients on the island of Ireland could participate in clinical trials, saving thousands of lives. We have seen a 15 per cent improvement in cancer survival on the island and a 550 per cent increase in the quality of collaborative cancer research across the three jurisdictions. Our European Cancer Groundshot, echoing the US Cancer Moonshot, has shown that patients treated in research-active hospitals have better outcomes that those who are not, categorically proving that research is a necessity, not a luxury.”

Prof Lawler presented this work last September at the Science Summit of the UN General Assembly in New York, where it was recognised as a global exemplar of the health dividend of peace.

Lung cancer

One of the areas where US all-island collaboration could really make a difference is in lung cancer, where outcomes are poor on both sides of the Atlantic. Prof Jarushka Naidoo, Professor of Medical Oncology at the Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre (Beaumont Hospital, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences), member of AICRI and a global lung cancer leader said: “Later this month [March], we mark 20 years since the introduction of the smoking ban in the workplace in Ireland, the first country in the world to introduce this key public health intervention. In this moment, we recognise the urgent need to raise the bar for patients with lung cancer, the cancer responsible for the greatest cancer-related mortality in the US, Ireland, and worldwide for more than 50 years. Importantly, this need is now matched by tremendous progress in novel targeted and immunotherapies for this disease, as well as the unrealised potential of early detection. Clinical progress in this area has been particularly aided by Irish investigators, whose work and leadership roles have continued global impact. We are now at a critical inflection point, in which strategic investment in lung cancer will allow us to realise the true potential of these advances.”

Euro-American Forum on Cancer

This month, April, the island of Ireland will be a unique bridge between Europe and the US, with the high-level ‘Euro-American Forum on Cancer’ taking place in Dublin’s Farmleigh House on 25-26 April.

This landmark occasion will bring together globally recognised clinical and academic leaders and key relevant policy makers, political figures, and patient advocates, who will shape a transatlantic cancer-beating agenda and deliver a series of recommendations to address the impending cancer challenge that is rapidly approaching.

The event will be jointly hosted by the Department of Health and AICRI in collaboration with major cancer organisations from the US and Europe, including the US National Cancer Institute (the largest funder of cancer research in the world), the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the European Cancer Organisation, and the European School of Oncology.

The Forum represents an unrivalled opportunity to join forces against the common challenge – cancer – with a focus on lung cancer and cancer inequalities along with other important topics. It will also mark the launch of European Cancer Pulse Ireland, as part of a European Cancer Organisation initiative that is defining cancer inequalities and their mitigation across Europe.

“This represents an exciting opportunity for Ireland to pay a key role in a new era of Euro-American cooperation on cancer,” said Mr Briscoe, Strategy Lead for AICRI.

Full programme details are available at:

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