Cancer experts including RCSI's Professor Jarushka Naidoo meet with US Congressional Caucus

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L-R: Prof. William Gallagher (University College Dublin and Co-Lead, AICRI); Quinn Ritchie (Legislative Director for US Congressman Mike Kelly, Co-Chair, US Congressional Cancer Caucus); Prof. Jarushka Naidoo (Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre and AICRI Principal Investigator); Prof. Mark Lawler (Queen's University Belfast and Co-Lead, AICRI); Jessica Burnell (Legislative Director of the Office of the 26th District of New York); and Ciaran Briscoe (CEO, North East Cancer Research and Education Trust and AICRI Director of Development).

A delegation of leading cancer specialists from across the island of Ireland has 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 was made up of leading participants in the All-Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI) including Professor Jarushka Naidoo, Professor of Medical Oncology at RCSI and Consultant Medical Oncologist at Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre. They met with the members of the US Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington DC today as part of this week’s Ireland-Northern Ireland-US engagement to mark St Patrick’s Week. 

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

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 United States.  

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 on our island.

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 an All-Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI). This unique collaboration of ten 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 United States 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. 

Unique opportunity

Congressman Mike Kelly, Co-Chair of the Congressional Cancer Caucus, commented on the event: “I am delighted on behalf of the Congressional Cancer Caucus to welcome representatives of the All-Island Cancer Research Institute, north and south to Capitol Hill and hear how their collective work has impacted both nationally and internationally. This event represents a unique opportunity to learn from each other and to strengthen our transatlantic linkages to help deliver better outcomes for cancer patients here in the US and on the island of Ireland.” 

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. Professor Naidoo said: “Later this month, 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.”