MOU: Ireland-Northern Ireland-NCI Cancer Consortium

On March 16th an historic MOU was signed again by health ministers Stephen Donnelly (Ireland), Robin Swann (Northern Ireland), and the Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in America, Dr Norman Sharpless, to re-establish the ‘Ireland-Northern Ireland-National Cancer Institute Cancer Consortium’, in an event that featured messages of support from An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, First Minister, Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill.

Key times for signing ceremony video: 

  • 06.50 – Taoiseach’s address (followed by First Minister & deputy First Minister)
  • 12.29 – Patient Voice – including Patrick Kivlehan at 14.40 (Chair of Cancer Trials Ireland Patients Consultation Committee)
  • 17.30 – Messages from Ministers for Health
  • 22.35 – Dr Ned Sharpless, Director of the NCI
  • 26.20 – Signing of the MOU
  • 28.30 – Panel discussion (begins with opening words from speakers, Eibhlin’s are at 40.45)
  • 48.00 – Open panel discussion
  • 1.03.56 – Norris Cochran, Acting Secretary, US Department of Health & Human Services

The tripartite Agreement originally establishing the Consortium (then named the All-Island Cancer Consortium) was first signed in 1999, in the aftermath of President Clinton’s visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland in 1998. The purpose of the agreement was – and is – to establish the Consortium and reduce cancer incidence and mortality on the island of Ireland through cross-border and transatlantic collaborations in cancer research and education.

Consortium impact

Over the past 21 years the Consortium helped to establish a robust cancer clinical trials infrastructure on the island of Ireland, an All-island Cancer Atlas, and to train over 500 clinicians, health care professionals and scientists in a series of short-stay programmes at the NCI and subsequent embed that learning across the island. An analysis of the Consortium’s work published in the European Journal of Cancer in 2020 showed that it had doubled the quantity of collaborative cancer research projects on the island of Ireland. It also revealed a significant increase in the quality of research, that was published in higher impact journals. Overall, in the past 21 years, more than 35,000 were enrolled on cancer clinical trials on the island.

Eibhlín Mulroe, CEO of Cancer Trials Ireland said:

“This partnership between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US gives us the opportunity to get the best possible care for our patients. A patient in Cork should have the same opportunity to be involved in a clinical trial as a patient in Dublin, Derry, Belfast, or indeed Washington. Cancer knows no borders, neither should we.

“This MOU is four years in the making. In 2016 the then Vice-President, Joe Biden spoke at the ASCO conference about a moon-shot to iradicate cancer. It is so gratifying for the parties involved to see the work of the intervening years culminate today. An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, TD, was the first Minister for Heath to fund Cancer Trials Ireland (then ICORG) back at the turn of the century. It really does feel like the stars aligned today.”

The MOU will be officially signed at a virtual event from 3pm today. Full programme here