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Press Release

Press release

New Irish cancer clinical trial takes centre stage at major US conference

15 September 2014

A new Irish clinical trial funded by the Health Research Board has revealed that you can achieve the same results with less radiation and fewer doses for patients with malignant spinal cord compression.

Malignant spinal cord compression (MSCC) is a complication of metastatic cancer that occurs when a tumour secondary deposit presses on the spinal cord and nerves. This pressure exposes patients to neurological damage that can result in pain, loss of muscle strength and function of one or more of the senses and in some cases paralysis of one limb or the whole body. Almost 400 people in Ireland suffer from MSCC each year and many are in palliative care at the time.

Lead researcher, Pierre Thirion, MD, a consultant radiation oncologist at St Luke’s in Dublin explains,

‘We found that one single dose of 10Gy of radiation therapy will deliver the same mobility and stability benefits for the patient as four doses of 5Gy (total 20Gy) of radiation therapy. Ultimately this research will reduce the burden of treatment as well as frequency of hospital visits for this patient group which is a real quality of life benefit as many are in late stages of cancer.’

The findings are being presented to more than 11,000 radiation oncologists at the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s (ASTRO) meeting in San Francisco. It the first Irish trial ever to be featured at the plenary session of a major US medical educational conference and Pierre’s plenary presentation is one of only four selected from more than 2000 submissions from all over the world.

Commenting on the achievement, Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board says,

‘Presenting at ASTRO is like being nominated for the OSCARS in the radiation oncology world. This is an incredible achievement for Pierre and the ICORG team. Their discovery will help improve the quality of life for vulnerable patients, as well as reducing the demand for radiation services and delivering savings for the health system.’

The study was designed and managed by ICORG  the All Ireland Co-operative Clinical Oncology Research Group), funded by the HRB with additional support from St Luke’s Institute of Cancer Research (SLICR)*

Chief Executive of ICORG, Brian Moulton says,

‘ICORG was set up to provide patients with access to treatments that are not currently available outside the clinical research arena. With funding from the Health Research Board, Irish Cancer Society and many other funding  bodies, industry  partners and charities, we have succeeded in offering research treatment options to more than 5,600 patients in the last eight years. As a result, 32 new medicines and a variety of new radiation treatment technologies have become available to Irish patients many years earlier than they would have through the normal pathways. We have also made Ireland attractive to major pharmaceutical companies who want a stable and robust clinical network in place in order to conduct trials.’

Graham Love concludes,

‘We have invested more than €50 million to help establish and develop ICORG over the past 12 years. Their national success and international recognition illustrates the impact this investment is having.’

The study involved 116 patients from five centres** across the island of Ireland. They were randomised into two groups. Group one received 20GY of radiation treatment over five days and Group two received 10Gy of radiation therapy in one dose.

Interviews: Pierre Thirion will present the results of this study for the first time at 2.15 pm PT, which is 10.15 pm GMT. He will be available for interview between 7.00 am and 8.30 am GMT for interview.

Graham Love, Chief Executive of the HRB also available for interview.


For more information contact

Gillian Markey

Communications Manager, Health Research Board

m 087 2288514; e

* The St. Luke's Institute of Cancer Research (SLICR).  SLICR supports radiation therapy based research and allied research across the three centres in the St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network (at St. Luke’s, Beaumont & St. James’s Hospitals).

**The five centres involved in the study were: 

  • St Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network
  • Galway University Hospital
  • Cork University Hospital
  • Belfast City Hospital
  • Whitfield Clinic in Waterford 

ASTRO is the premier radiation oncology society in the world, with more than 10,000 members who are physicians, nurses, biologists, physicists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and other health care professionals that specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. As the leading organization in radiation oncology, the Society is dedicated to improving patient care through professional education and training, support for clinical practice and health policy standards, advancement of science and research, and advocacy. ASTRO publishes two medical journals, International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics ( and Practical Radiation Oncology (; developed and maintains an extensive patient website,; and created the Radiation Oncology Institute (, a non-profit foundation to support research and education efforts around the world that enhance and confirm the critical role of radiation therapy in improving cancer treatment. To learn more about ASTRO, visit

The Health Research Board (HRB) is the lead organisation supporting and funding health research in Ireland. We have a key role in building capacity for research, creating opportunities for researchers, driving translation of discoveries into practice and providing solid evidence to support policy. By doing this we will achieve better outcomes for patients, help drive efficiencies in the health services and create a stimulus for the health care industry in Ireland. Find out more at

ICORG the All Ireland Cooperative Oncology Research Group 
( is a not-for-profit clinical research organisation leading national clinical and translational cancer research. ICORG was established in 1996 and aims to enable patients to gain early access to new cancer treatments, create and enhance cancer research opportunities and to make Ireland a premier location for high quality cancer clinical and translational research. ICORG has built a sophisticated clinical trials system, along with a rapidly emerging translational research arm, with a number of studies analysing diagnostic and predictive biomarkers. Since inception ICORG has opened 260 protocols and facilitated access to research treatments for 11,500 Irish and European cancer patients. ICORG has developed strong links with many leading international cancer research groups and pharmaceutical companies developing promising new cancer treatments. ICORG currently has 63 open studies in Cancer Centres throughout Ireland, as well as many hospitals in other European countries.

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