Health briefing


A round-up of today's other stories in brief

Lawlor confirms successful trial on Irish-made cancer drug

RTÉ MORNING Ireland presenter Áine Lawlor has confirmed that she has had successful treatment of a cancer trial drug which is being made in Ireland.

Ms Lawlor, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, is one of about 40 women taking the drug Lapatinib which is made by GlaxoSmithKline in Cork. She told The Marian Finucane Show on Saturday that she signed up to the trial immediately because she knew from reading about cancer that the “medicines are not where the medicines should be at. It is still a lottery and a gamble. I knew what a difference Herceptin had made. If a new drug of that family is coming along as well, of course it was in my interest to try it.”

She also signed up to the trial because she believed that those taking the drug get better treatment for participating in it.

Lapatinib is a similar drug to Herceptin in that it is used for women who are Her 2 positive or over-express a protein which causes the cancer cells to grow up more aggressively. She said that during her treatment she did a one-on-one interview with Dr Dennis Slamon, the doctor who discovered Herceptin. Ms Lawlor said she hoped to return to broadcasting during the summer after receiving a course of radiotherapy at St Luke’s Hospital in Rathgar.

Lapatinib is already licensed for Her 2 positive patients whose cancer has progressed despite receiving Herceptin. The trial at St Vincent’s Hospital is one involving breast cancer patients who are receiving Herceptin, chemotherapy and Lapatinib before surgery for earlier stage disease.

The trial is being done by the All-Ireland Cooperative Oncology Research Group (ICORG) which is involved in dozens of trials for new cancer treatments. ICORG frequently gets medicines before other countries for clinical trials.

Protein identified in cancer/alcohol link

A PROTEIN has been identified that plays a key role in the link between drinking alcohol and breast cancer.

Women with higher levels of the molecule in their breasts are more likely to develop cancer if they drink too much, research suggests. Scientists in Mexico say their discovery could lead to a test showing which individuals are most at risk.

Preventative measures could then be taken, such as helping vulnerable women cut down on alcohol. – PA

Awareness day confirms 12 cases of oral cancer

A RECENT awareness day for mouth cancer confirmed 12 cases of the potentially deadly disease, according to the Irish Dental Association (IDA).

Some 10,000 people availed of free mouth cancer examinations at the Cork and Dublin Dental University Hospitals last September.

Of those, 83 individuals were sent for further examination and 12 cases were confirmed with mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer.

Mouth cancer is closely associated with smoking and is a factor in three-quarters of cases.

Almost 2,000 of those who attended the clinics were told to get smoking cessation advice.

Several hundred were advised to attend their GP for issues such as hoarseness, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and weight loss.

Some 300 cases are detected each year with 100 deaths. Unfortunately, for many people the disease is caught too late.

The most common symptoms are mouth ulcers that will not go away, swallowing difficulties and pain on the tongue.

The President of the IDA, Conor McAlister, said: “Early intervention means the difference between straightforward removal of a growth and the intricate, expensive interventions that have to happen with a later diagnosis.

“It’s not just about survival, it’s about quality of life,” Dr McAlister added.