Essential for patients that Ireland continues to invest in blood cancer research, says leading haematologist

Dublin, 27th September 2012

A leading consultant haematologist has said that Ireland must sustain and increase investment in blood cancer research if it is to keep pace with international improvements in patient survival rates.

Blood cancers are the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death in Ireland. Over the last four years, survival rates in Ireland have more than doubled from an average of three to seven years. Speaking today at the inaugural Blood Cancer Ireland Forum at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dr Peter O’Gorman, lecturer at UCD School of Medicine and consultant haematologist at Mater University Hospital, said: “Scientific research has made important breakthroughs in the understanding of blood cancers like Multiple Myeloma, resulting in new drug therapies and increased survival rates. This trend, evident in the best US cancer centres, has been mirrored in Ireland according to the recently published Irish Cancer Registry Report. It is critical for patients that this upward trend is maintained.”

The Mater Institute of Research and Therapy (MIRT), led by Dr Peter O’Gorman, combines a newly built 34 room state-of-the-art haemato-oncology ward, a cutting edge scientific programme – jointly run between Dublin and Harvard University – and a busy clinical trial unit at University College Dublin.

“” Scientific research has made important breakthroughs in the understanding of blood cancers like Multiple Myeloma

At the forum, Dr O’Gorman, supported by Kathryn Thomas (RTE presenter and MIRT ambassador), launched an appeal for donations from the public and the corporate sector. Artist Robert Ballagh, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2010 and is a patient at Dr O’Gorman’s clinic, has produced a limited edition of 350 signed prints, costing €350 each. All of the proceeds will go directly towards funding further clinical trials at the MIRT.

Speaking in advance of the conference, Mr Ballagh said: “Once my treatment began I found myself on a steep learning curve and happily discovering how recent research and development has resulted in therapies that produce much better results than those experienced in the past. In my case, after about four months of chemotherapy, my doctor, Peter O’Gorman, was able to tell me that I was in remission.” said Mr Ballagh.

Mr Ballagh said: “Obviously my present good health is due, in no small part, to those involved in cancer research. In recognition of all those who played a role in my recovery I created a logo for the new institute. The symbol references the triple spirals carved by our megalithic ancestors in the Boyne Valley, but also hopefully relates to the complex and interrelated nature of modern genetics.”

The blood cancer forum also heard about international developments in the treatment of blood cancer from the world’s leading myeloma expert and co-founder of MIRT, Professor Ken Anderson, Dana Farber Institute of Cancer Research, Harvard University. Professor Anderson endorsed the programme at the Mater Institute and has established with Dr O’Gorman a research partnership which will directly impact and improve the way that blood cancer patients in Ireland are diagnosed and treated.

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