Research into Oesophageal Cancer

OCF funds research into oesophageal cancer

Research into Oesophageal Cancer

The Oesophageal Cancer Fund has raised €2.6 million to date and has provided almost €1 million of these funds for Clinical research in the main Clinical

Academic Cancer Centres for upper Gastrointestinal cancers across Ireland.

What We Fund

OCF through its fundraising events such as Lollipop Day, funds various research and related projects into oesophageal cancer.

The OCF considers individual programme and project grant applications in clinical and translational research in the field of oesophageal cancer. Clinical research can be aimed at any aspect of the disease spectrum, in-cluding epidemiology, prevention, diagnosis, assessment and staging, and management of oesophageal cancer.

For example, public health awareness and epidemiological studies are welcomed as are studies which investigate symptom palliation and quality of life. National collaborative studies are preferred as these complement the National profile of the OCF

fundraising profile and encourage different groups around Ireland to work together. Preference will be given to programme grant applications which clearly demonstrate processes for working in conjunction with other Funding Bodies.

The OCF considers its role to complement rather than substitute for other streams of funding. Applications will be accepted from clinicians, scientists or health care workers in Irish universities, medical schools, hospitals and research institutions. Cross border and international research will be supported but the lead researcher should be based in the Republic of Ireland. Applications are judged on the basis of clinical and scientific excellence, innovation and potential impact on policy and practice.

Who We Fund

OCF provides funding to a variety of individuals, groups and organisations involved with oesophageal cancer research in Ireland.

In total, OCF has raised €2.6 million euros to date and has provided almost €1 million euros of this for Clinical research in the main clinical academic cancer

centres for upper gastrointestinal cancers across Ireland. In addition we run our annual fund raising and public awareness campaign Lollipop Day at the end of February each year. So far we have allocated approximately €600k for public awareness programmes.


Some of the projects we have assisted with through funding are listed below

Cork Cancer Research Centre delivers positive initial results on Research funded by OCF

The Oesophageal Cancer Fund has revealed hugely positive indicators in research it is funding led by Cork man Dr Declan Soden. Dr Soden uses new technology developed at the Cork Cancer Research Centre and OCF is now funding the trial for use of the technology in treatment of oesophageal cancer.

The technology used is a world first in treatment of oesophageal cancer. A short burst of electrical energy is delivered directly to the tumour via an endoscopic device. This energy burst makes the tumour leaky and allows for greatly improved take up of chemotherapy by the tumour.

In previous clinical studies with this technology in other cancers – colorectal and skin cancer– they have seen excellent results in those previously unresponsive to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Dr Soden’s, OCF funded trial is a world first for its application to oesophageal cancer and he is very hopeful that this technology advance will help greatly in improving patient’s quality of life.

Dr Declan Soden, Principal Investigator, Cork Cancer Research Centre, said:

“OCF fundraising has allowed us to bring a new endoscopic outpatient treatment to patients.
As a result of this support we have started treating patients in a clinical trial with excellent results so far.”

“Improving patients’ quality of life is our goal and the OCF has enabled us to bring this new treatment to the patients that need it most. The OCF has had a tremendously positive impact in raising awareness of oesophageal cancer, connecting survivors and in supporting innovative research.”

The Oesophageal Cancer Fund has stated that oesophageal cancer rates remain among the highest in Europe, with a continued recent rise in incidence, particularly in men. The money raised by OCF through its many activities is used for research into oesophageal cancer.

In data provided by the National Cancer Registry, Dublin, both north and south, has seen almost a doubling in diagnoses over the last 20 years, with major increases also observed in North Tipperary, Wexford and Waterford. Internationally, the reported incidence of oesophageal cancer in the western world has risen by over four-fold in the 30 years.


“The OCF could not do this without the generosity and support of the public. They receive no other funding and rely entirely on the public supporting Lollipop Day and its many other activities throughout the year. We are heartened by our achievements to date but the figures speak for themselves - there is still so much to do and we can not achieve it without you.”

To read this article in full click here.


Dr Declan Soden

Dr. Soden obtained his B.Sc. in molecular biology from UCC and completed a PhD investigating the regulation of gene expression. He completed his PhD at Lund University, Sweden before joining the CCRC. He worked as a Group Leader for the Centre in the area of gene and drug delivery from February 2003 and was responsible for running several clinical trials that involved the treatment of unresponsive cancers.

Dr. Soden has worked in the area of Immuno gene therapy and targeted delivery to tumours for the last decade. In that time his group has initiated several novel Phase I clinical trials, with currently over 500 patients having received a novel form of therapy for inoperable skin cancers.

His group a have developed a technology for the treatment of lung, liver, pancreatic and gastrointestinal tract cancers which facilitates a significant improvement in local drug or DNA absorption without the normally associated systemic side effects.

  • Patented medical devices for the minimally invasive electroporation assisted ablation of internal cancers. ( Grant fund from the OCF )
  • Coordinator of CCRC engagement with an EU funded Cancer Network of excellence, links with 20 EU cancer centres. ( Grant fund from the OCF )
  • Awarded Irish Medicines Board approval to commence a Phase I trial using a new endoscopic system to treat colorectal cancer (November 2009) and lung cancer (April 2011).
  • Awarded Innovation of the Year award for 2011 based on Lung cancer work.
  • Awarded Pfizers Innovation through Teamwork award - 2014


Progress Report: The Republic of Ireland Registry & Biobank for Barrett’s Oesophagus Patients.

Authors: Prof. John Reynolds and Dr. Jacintha O’Sullivan.

Every year, a large portion of your Lollipop Day donations are invested in Ireland’s national Registry & Biobank for Barrett’s Oesophagus Patients. Fully funded by OCF, this essential database was established in 2009 to meet our aim of combating Oesophageal Adenocarcinoma (OAC) through early detection. To date, over €830,000 in Lollipop Day funding has gone towards keeping the Registry alive. Your contributions mean we can employ five full-time Registry personnel linking five national hospitals: St. James’s, St. Vincent’s, Beaumont and Mater Misericordiae in Dublin and Mercy Hospital, Cork.

Since 2009 we have recorded over 5,000 patients on the Barrett’s Registry. Though not cancerous, Barrett’s Oesophagus is a condition that is frequently a precursor to full-scale oesophageal cancer. Our Registry helps us identify at-risk patients earlier and track their progress with regular ‘Surveillance’, using endoscopies and bioscopies. Cellular changes such as dysplasia and or cancer can be diagnosed much earlier, meaning oesophageal cancer can be addressed in its early and most treatable phase.

Our data manager across all five hospital sites record and monitor a range of follow-up data for all Registry patients: stage of condition, length of Barretts,

symptoms, treatment, and alcohol and smoking his-tory. Barrett’s patients who show progression in their disease are of-fered Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) therapy, a highly effective Halo procedure that eradicates diseased tissue and allows healthy new tissue to regenerate. We are now part of the UK Radio Frequency Ablation Registry that covers 18 hospitals of which St. James’s Hospital Dublin is the third largest contributing centre.

OCF donations also finance a National Barrett’s Biobank that operates in tandem with the National Barrett’s Registry. Tissue and blood samples from consented Barrett’s patients are collected, stored and used for vital patient focused research that is helping us better understand what factors drive progression to oesophageal cancer. Three scientific studies which have utilised this national biobank have been submitted for publication and are currently under review.

Thanks to your funding, scientists can now draw upon this invaluable collection of 360 tissue samples and 470 bloods. Our goal in the near-term is to go truly extend this unique Registry & Biobank to other hospitals in Galway and Limerick. We ultimately also strive to develop an island-wide resource that links with the Northern Ireland Barrett’s Registry.

Your funding makes all of this possible so we cannot thank you enough for your support over this amazing four-year journey.


Authors: Various.

Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EA) is an increasingly common and often fatal condition, which occurs in a background of Barrett’s esophagus (BE). The aim is to provide consensus recommendations, based on current medical literature, to assist clinicians in making decisions about the management of low grade dysplasia, high-grade dysplasia (HGD) and early EA in BE patients.

Click here for more information.

Effect of neoadjuvantchemoradiotherapy on angiogenesis in oesophageal cancer.

Authors: C. O. McDonnell, D. J. Bouchier-Hayes, D. Toomey, D. Foley, E.W. Kay, E. Leen& T. N. Walsh.

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels are raised in the serum of patients with oesophageal carcinoma. The aim of this study was to evaluate the tumour microvasculature and the role of tumour-associated macrophages in VEGF production after neoadjuvantchemoradiotherapy and surgery for oesophageal cancer.

Click here for more information.

Does Impaired Gallbladder Function Contribute to the Development of Barrett’s Esophagus and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma?

Authors: Ayman O. Nassr, Syeda Nadia Shah Gilani, Mohammed Atie, Tariq Abdelhafiz, Val Connolly. Neil Hickey & Thomas Noel Walsh.

Esophageal adenocarcinoma is aetiologically associated with gastroesophageal reflux, but the mechanisms responsible for the metaplasia– dysplasia sequence are unknown. Bile components are implicated. Impaired gallbladder function may contribute to duodenogastric reflux (DGR) and harmful GERD. This study aims to compare gallbladder function in patients with Barrett’s esophagus, adenocarcinoma, and controls.

Click here for more information.

Multiple Primary Oesophageal Tumours.

Author: T.N. Walsh.

The importance of long-term follow-up of oesophageal cancer has increased due to improved survival and increased incidence. We describe a patient whose case raises a number of important issues regarding surveillance.

Click here for more information.

Establishing an All Ireland collaboration targeting prevention and early diagnosis of oesophageal cancer through registration of Barrett’s Oesophagus and development of a Bioresource.

Author: Dr. Jacintha O’Sullivan.

Ireland has one of the highest rates of Oesophageal Cancer in Europe amongst men and women with approximately 450 new cases diagnosed each year. It is very heartening to see a steady improvement in Irish people’s awareness of this cancer and the progress in the cure rate. More and more people are aware now that if they’re experiencing symptoms such as long-term heartburn or reflux they should go to their doctor.

Click here for more information.


A New Endoscopic Device to Treat Oesophageal Cancer.

Author: Declan Sodan.

The research funded by the Oesophageal Cancer Fund at the Cork Cancer Research Centre (€100k in 2011/2012) is focused on enabling pa-tients to receive localised endoscopic treatment of their cancer using a technology called electropermeabilisation. This involves short electrical pulses delivered directly to the tumour tissue rendering the local area temporarily porous and allowing for up to a 1000 fold increase in specific large chemotherapy drugs/molecules.

Click here for more information.

How We Fund

Each year we place a call for applications for funding into oesophageal cancer research.

In total, OCF has raised €2.6 million euros and has provided almost €1 million euros of this for Clinical research in the main clinical academic cancer centres for upper gastrointestinal cancers across Ireland. In addi-tion we run our annual fund raising and public awareness campaign, Lollipop Day at the end of February each year. So far we have allocated ap-proximately €1 million for public awareness programmes.

The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the OCF was established in order to oversee the process of grant fund allocation for scientific pro-ject applications received from researchers interested in any aspect of oesophageal cancer. The SAC reports to the Trustees of the OCF. The Trustees determine when and how much funding is to be made available and the SAC is re-sponsible for overseeing the application process from announcement of call for applications through to making its recommendations back to the Trustees. The primary role of the SAC is to ensure the scientific validity of the applications received.

The SAC is also responsible for providing advice to the Trustees about the research themes most likely to make a positive impact across the entire spectrum of the disease of oesophageal cancer within the context of the overall aims and direction of the OCF. The SAC works along with the Trustees to promote collaborative research on a nationwide basis whenever possible.

The SAC is co-chaired by a clinician with an expertise in oesophageal cancer treatment and research with no vested interest and by one of the Trustees. The composition of the SAC committee includes four medical and four lay members with legal, business, accountancy and publicity backgrounds. The OCF welcome applications from potential researchers seeking funding for their projects as they arise. In addition, when the Trustees make funds available, the SAC will advertise and oversee a formal round of applications for either project or programme grants.

A project grant will usually be awarded for a single study and run for one or two years. Typical funding for a project grant is in the region of €100,000. Programme grants are awarded for a period of three years and are designed to help fund infrastructural programmes of a national and collaborative nature that will provide future resources for further research.

Typical funding for a Programme grant is in the region of €300,000 - €500,000. Funding will only be made to institutions and not to individual researchers.

A call for research applications will be advertised in the national news-papers and through the relevant professional organisations. A closing deadline for receipt of applications will be set at a minimum of four weeks after the date of advertisement. Applications will be not be con-sidered after the deadline is set. Template forms for applicants are downloadable from the OCF website. When a call is made for a Pro-gramme Grant the applicant will be required to submit a full application and all applications meeting the criteria and documentation in order will be reviewed by the SAC and sent for Peer Review. In the case of a call for Project Grants the applicant will be requested to submit a summarised outline application in the first instance. After review by the SAC, selected applicants will be requested to complete a full formal application that will be sent for Peer Review before a decision is subsequently made by the SAC.

The Peer Review process obtains a structured objective assessment of each application by three independent academic clinicians with an in-ternational profile in the field of oesophageal cancer research. The pri-mary role of the Peer Review is to obtain an independent assessment of the scientific validity and merits of each application within the context of the aims of the OCF. Secondarily, advice is obtained about suggestions for improving applications should funding be made available. Based on the outcome from the Peer Review process the SAC then makes its recommendation to the Trustees as to which project/programme best meets the search criteria, has scientific validity and is likely to deliver within budget and timeframe. The SAC aims to make its recommenda-tion to the OCF Trustees within three months of the closing date for applications.

Successful applicants will be required to submit annual reports to the SAC outlining progress and accounts. Any outcomes from the research e.g. presentations and publications, will be required to be noti-fied to the OCF and funding from the OCF acknowledged. In the case of Programme Grants the continuance of the funding from year to year will be dependent on the review of the annual report form the research team to the SAC.

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