Professor Jack Gleeson is the newly appointed Associate Professor of Medical Oncology at UCC and Consultant Medical Oncologist at CUH.

More clinical trials needed to develop better cancer medicines

A leading cancer expert says Ireland needs to drastically improve patients’ access to clinical trials to improve oncology care.

Professor Jack Gleeson, the newly appointed Associate Professor of Medical Oncology at UCC and Consultant Medical Oncologist at CUH made the comment ahead of a lecture he will deliver this Friday.

Speaking ahead of the Future Cancer Medicine: Bridging the Academic/Clinical Interface at UCC’s Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, Prof. Gleeson said: “We know cancer clinical trials benefit patients, so getting access to those trials for patients is essential. We want to have the infrastructure within our hospitals and our universities to welcome in and attract international collaborative groups and work with them to expand our trials for our patients here in Ireland.”

Professor Gleeson will speak about the UCC Futures - Future Medicine initiative which focuses on collaboration between world leading scientists, engineers and clinician investigators at UCC and affiliated hospitals to deliver high-impact, transformational, next generation medicines and medical technologies.

“We are focused on creating step-change advancements in earlier detection, faster prognosis and targeted treatments to reduce the global health burden and improve quality-of-life for patients with many conditions, including cancer.”

Prof. Gleeson says patients are playing increasing roles in clinical trials but the enrolment rate is still low at only 2-3%.

“We are aiming for 6% nationally (NCCP National Cancer Strategy) and ultimately 10% per Organisation of European Cancer Institutes (OECI) target. For this to happen we need more trials open and for that we need more researchers, more highly trained research nurses, more data managers and more research staff.”

Prof. Gleeson said he sees much better links now between hospitals, the universities and scientists but there is still scope for improvements. He took up his current combined academic clinician post in CUH/UCC in March 2023.

“Cancer is daunting in the breadth and scope of its diversity, spanning genetics, cell and tissue biology, pathology, individual patient factors and response to therapy. Our aim is to more fully understand the mechanisms of cancer development and malignant progression and to apply that knowledge to cancer medicine,” he added.

Professor Gleeson is the first of two academic medical oncologists appointed to UCC resulting from a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC) to advance cancer research in the region.

The appointment of the Associate Professor in Medical Oncology, funded by UPMC, is backed by the HSE and the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) and will support national and international research collaborations between UCC, CUH, UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh.