NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
November 9, 2004 • Volume 1 / Number 43 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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All-Ireland Consortium: Health Diplomacy at Its Best

The principle objective of the Consortium is to enhance the capacity of our cancer services to improve the lives of cancer patients on the island. I look forward to Ireland's continued participation in the relationships with our colleagues in Northern Ireland and NCI.

- Ivor Callely TD, Minister of State
Department of Health and Children, Dublin

Over the last several years, NCI's OIA, under the leadership of Dr. Joe Harford, has been at the forefront of NCI's efforts to contribute to the global fight against cancer. One of the OIA's crowning achievements has been the Ireland-Northern Ireland-NCI Cancer Consortium. Preparations are now underway to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of the signing of this historic memorandum of understanding and to plan for continued success in the coming years.

There is no doubt that the NCI-All-Ireland Consortium has become a powerful force for good for cancer patients on the island of Ireland, and we look forward to further success and increasing collaboration as part of this unique international partnership.

- Dr. Patrick Johnston of Queens University Belfast

Since 1999, the All-Ireland Cancer Consortium has sought to enhance the infrastructure for cancer research and cancer care on the island of Ireland. In addition to facilitating interactions among the three research communities represented, the Consortium has developed a number of joint programs across the continuum of cancer.

The most recent milestone is the newly established Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB), officially announced last month during a ceremony at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The CCRCB has been established as an interdisciplinary research center bringing together researchers from the Schools of Medicine, Chemistry, Biology & Biochemistry, Pharmacy, and Mathematics & Physics. The new Centre will be led by Dr. Patrick Johnston of Queens University Belfast and will work closely with local institutions that conduct cancer clinical trials.

The NCI-All-Ireland agreement has already begun to speed up the process of cancer research development on the island of Ireland and has been a major milestone agreement for cancer care in this country.

- Micéal Martin TD, former Minister for Health
and Children in Ireland and current Minister of
Enterprise, Trade and Employment

While the CCRCB hopes to one day elevate Belfast to one of the world's leading locations for translational cancer research, the All-Ireland Consortium has spent the last 5 years setting the gold standard for health-related international partnerships. The scope of the Consortium's activities can also be gauged by the breadth of its Working Groups: Scholar Exchange, Clinical Trials, Cancer Registries, Nursing, Information Technology/Telecommunications, and Prevention.

From left to right: Professor Peter Gregson, Vice Chancellor of Queens University Belfast (QUB), Professor Alex Markham, CEO of Cancer Research UK, Professor Patrick Johnston, Scientific Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at QUB, and Dr. Joe Harford, Director of NCI's Office of International Affairs display a model of the new building for CCRCB to be constructed on the QUB campus. Scholar exchanges thus far have included three Irish scholars given 3-year fellowships in epidemiology that include 1 year working with NCI's SEER program in Bethesda, Md. and more than a dozen nurses who have trained in oncology nursing and clinical trials for 3 months at the NIH Clinical Center. The collaboration between the cancer registries covering the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland under the auspices of the Consortium has resulted in the first-ever comparison of cancer incidence rates between the North and South. The Prevention Working Group, chaired by Dr. Doug Weed of NCI's Division of Cancer Prevention, has been particularly active within the Consortium. In addition to participating in workshops in Ireland on topics such as "Cancer Prevention and Tobacco Control" and "Obesity and Cancer," the working group has dedicated itself to building a community of prevention-oriented scientists and cancer caregivers on the island of Ireland. Perhaps the most tangible manifestation of this commitment is to be found in the fact that over 80 researchers and health care providers from the island have participated in the NCI's Summer Curriculum in Cancer Prevention (see This program includes a 4-week course, "Principles and Practice of Cancer Prevention and Control" and a 1-week course, "Molecular Prevention." The faculty for these courses consists of approximately 85 experts from NCI, NIH, and academic institutions. Over the past 5 years, the courses have drawn approximately 140 international participants. In addition to the activities related to cancer prevention, the Cancer Consortium has been engaged in the formation of an All-Ireland Cooperative Group for conducting island-wide clinical trials in cancer. The headquarters function of the Cooperative Group is located in Dublin with a center for data management and statistics in Belfast.

The All-Ireland Consortium promotes partnerships at both clinical and research levels - at both cross-border and international levels.

- Dr. Mark Lawler of St. James Hospital, Dublin

Yet another important benchmark achieved under the Consortium has been the ongoing implementation of the Telesynergy® system. This integrated telecommunications system of computers, microscopes, cameras, and other equipment can transmit X-rays and other medical images or a live exam of a patient to distant sites where clinicians can discuss the case as if they were in the same room.

To date, three Telesynergy suites have been installed at Belfast City Hospital and at both St. Luke's Hospital and St. James' Hospital in Dublin under the auspices of the All-Ireland Cancer Consortium.

Later this month, the Implementation Group of the Consortium, chaired by Dr. Harford, will assemble in Dublin within the context of the World Congress of Cancer Organizations meeting. There, the group will mark the 5-year anniversary of the Consortium and discuss plans for the next 5 years of this very successful collaboration.

More information regarding the All-Ireland Cancer Consortium can be found at