All-Ireland winners Noel McGrath and Richie Bennis encouraged patients to consider cancer clinical trials at the recent opening of the newly renovated Cancer Clinical Trials Unit at UH Limerick. Coming at the end of November – a month devoted to awareness of men’s health issues and men’s cancers in particular – the event was supported by All-Ireland winning hurlers Noel McGrath (Tipperary) and Richie Bennis (Limerick), both of whom have had cancer treatment at UHL. Legendary Clare hurling manager Ger Loughnane, a fellow cancer survivor, also supported the opening.
Another in attendance was Grand Slam and European Cup winning rugby hero Marcus Horan. Marcus was representing his close friend and former Shannon, Munster and Ireland team-mate, the late Anthony Foley. Anthony’s parents, Brendan and Sheila, also attended the opening. Anthony was a member of the board of the Mid-Western Cancer Foundation and was keenly aware of the importance of cancer trials. He was at the Limerick unit only last May to celebrate International Clinical Trials Day and had been looking forward to attending the opening. UHL is one of 14 hospital-based cancer trials research centres in Ireland and the only one in the MidWest region. Eibhlin Mulroe, CEO, of Cancer Trials Ireland, which co-ordinates hundreds of cancer trials around Ireland every year, commented: “Patients who take part in trials make a profound community contribution. What they do is really important. They are making a unique contribution to answering the really important cancer research questions which might help others in the future “In return we hope participation will help them and enable them get access to treatments and drugs not available through any other avenue.
“I want to sincerely thank the people who have made that decision to go on a trial and are helping highly committed research teams around the country find the answers to cancer. If you would like to find out what cancer trials are available please just ask your doctor - your oncologist or indeed your GP. That’s our appeal - Just Ask. You can also go on www.cancertrials.ie and find out what trials are open at the moment.” Marcus Horan said Anthony Foley had been a great supporter of cancer services in the Mid-West. “When the nurses got on to me to see if I could step in for Axel, I just jumped at it. His involvement here was something he was very proud of and he would have loved to have been able to see through to the opening. It is a great honour to be here today, especially with his parents Brendan and Sheila,” said Marcus. Noel McGrath, who was named Tipperary Person of the Year 2016 by the Tipperary Association Dublin for his cancer awareness work, stressed the importance of patients taking part in trials. Noel rebounded from being treated for cancer last year to winning a second All-Ireland medal in September. “I was very well looked after here; had treatment and a positive outcome at the end. For people that have not had as good an outcome as me, it is about trying to prevent as many of those cases as possible and to help as many people as we can. Initiatives like this, especially here in Limerick where the oncology unit is very good, any steps we can take to make it even better is a very positive thing,” said Noel.
Richie Bennis, an All-Ireland winner with Limerick in 1973, was treated for cancer in UHL in 2009. “Trials are very important,” said Richie, “and anything in the line of cancer that either encourages people to first of all get checkups and then get treatment, I am delighted to support. Trials save lives and if something saves lives, everybody should do it.”