Cork cancer specialists run up hill 221 times to raise funds

Oncologists fundraise for genetic sequencing machine to diagnose individual tumours

The special machine for detecting tumours will cost €450,000. Photograph: Getty Images

The special machine for detecting tumours will cost €450,000. Photograph: Getty Images


“Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain,” the conqueror of Everest, Edmund Hillary once declared but a team of Cork doctors proved the two can be compatible as they scaled their own Everest.

A team of Medical Oncology doctors from Cork University Hospital, the Mercy University Hospital and the Bons Secours in Cork climbed Cork’s St Patrick’s Hill 221 times to raise funds for a specialist piece of equipment to aid thousands of cancer patients in Munster.

Medical oncologist at CUH, Dr Dearbhaile Collins was the chief organiser of the runners and she explained that climbing the 40 metres high St Patrick’s Hill 221 times was the equivalent of climbing Everest, which soars 8,848 metres high in the Himalayas

Her colleague and CUH’s clinical director of cancer services, Dr Richard Bambury, who was also among the relay of runners, explained that the fundraising climb was to help purchase a genetic sequencing machine for CUH.

“A genetic sequencing machine is used to identify mutations within cancer cells and the ion torrent genexus integrated sequencer machine is a new innovative machine that is currently unavailable to cancer patients in Cork.

“It will be used by the CUH pathology department under the clinical leadership of Dr Michael Bennett and it will allow us to do in-depth genetic analysis of individual tumours to figure out what is the best targeted treatment for a patient’s particular tumour.”

“We will also be able to use the information to find appropriate clinical trial options of new emerging treatments for patients,” he added.

Dr Bambury said the genetic sequencing machine would also facilitate research between CUH and University College Cork led by pathology professor, Louise Burke and Cork Institute of Technology to develop better treatments for future patients.

“At the moment we can test for two or three gene abnormalities at a time whereas this machine will allow us test for tens and hundreds of genes at the same time so it will hugely increase the amount of information we have on individual cancers.”

The machine will cost €450,000 and the CUH charity under chief executive Michael Nason has committed €100,000 while the Karen Fenton Fund, set up by the family of a young Cork woman who died of ovarian cancer, has raised €75,000.

CUH medical oncologist, Prof Seamus O’Reilly said great credit was due to the Fenton family. “All great ideas have a seed and they were the seed and when we get this machine, we will think of Karen and her legacy for cancer care.”

Prof O’Reilly said the climb on Saturday went very well with eight relay teams of four doctors completing the 221 ascents and descents on time while the public response to raise the remaining €275,000 has been tremendous.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by people’s generosity – we had over €60,000 raised in online donations by Sunday afternoon and the messages of support we have received from people have been really tremendous.”

Anyone wishing to support can go to #PullTogetherCUHC and/or donate at