THE governments of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United States of America have come together and pledged to fight cancer through a renewed tripartite partnership.
Irish Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD, Northern Ireland Minister for Health Robin Swann MLA and Dr Norman E Sharpless MD on behalf of the National Cancer Institute of the US (NCI), have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding to reinvigorate the Ireland - Northern Ireland – NCI Cancer Consortium.
The historic memorandum was signed remotely by the partners during a special virtual broadcast ahead of last week’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
After adding his signature, Minister Donnelly said: “We have made significant progress in developing cancer services in Ireland.
“Working together with Northern Ireland and the United States, we can build on this and really have an impact on preventing cancer, and on improving the lives of those living with and beyond their cancer diagnosis.”
He added: “This renewed Cancer Consortium will increase the sharing of knowledge, experience and best practice across areas including prevention, research and innovation to the benefit of cancer patients.”
Upon signing the document, Minister Swann stated: “I welcome the opportunity to re-sign the Ireland-Northern Ireland-National Cancer Institute Cancer Consortium MOU.
“Unfortunately, we are all too aware of the challenges cancer presents right across our jurisdictions but this multilateral partnership will enable us to continue to improve clinical cancer services and patient care nationally, and to foster joint collaborations in cancer research and development.”
He added: “It is particularly timely for us to be further building on strong links and sharing of expertise through coproduction as in Northern Ireland we are currently embarking on the development of a Cancer Recovery Plan and a new Cancer Strategy Northern Ireland.”
The renewed partnership was warmly welcomed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, and the United States’ Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services Norris Cochran.
The Consortium aims to “reduce cancer incidence and mortality on the island of Ireland through cross-border and transatlantic collaborations in cancer research and education”.
Originally established in 1999 following the Good Friday Agreement, it is credited with helping to save lives and enhancing the quality of life of many cancer survivors.
In the past two decades it has established cancer clinical trials infrastructure on the island of Ireland and trained over 500 clinicians, health care professionals and scientists to bolster research and knowledge sharing.
Facilitated by cross-border trade body, InterTradeIreland, the historic Memorandum of Understanding will build on the strong foundations laid by the original partnership, to further critical cancer research and ensure that the island of Ireland remains firmly embedded on the global cancer research map.
Areas of focus will include enhancing clinical trials for patients across the island of Ireland, supporting research and providing additional training for the next generation of health care professionals and scientists to support cancer care and research.
Ken Nelson, Chairperson for InterTradeIreland, which has been facilitating discussions between the cancer networks, cancer researchers and government partners, welcomed the historical occasion this month - saying it showcases the incredible power of collaboration.
“Over the last two decades, the Cancer Consortium has had an incredible impact on progressing cancer research,” he said.
“Over 35,000 patients have benefited from clinical trials, with the partnership also creating jobs and providing essential funding in a critical area.”
He added: “Cancer knows no borders, a mantra that lives at the very heart of this collaboration as it continues to deliver a wealth of scientific, health and wellbeing success across international borders.
“InterTradeIreland is strategically committed to supporting such exciting collaboration recognising that, along with the vital health benefits, it will also boost innovation-led trade opportunities in Ireland and Northern Ireland.”