Breakthrough Cancer Research Donate

Help Buy Back Time for Cancer Patients

Posted on: 24 Sep 2020

Help Buy Back Time for Cancer Patients

~ Cancer consultants, patients and researchers appeal the public to help fund lifesaving cancer research on World Cancer Research Day ~

“I look to the future quite hopeful that, by the time I need it, there will be another treatment there to keep me alive”, Kay Curtin, stage 4 cancer patient. 


Today, on World Cancer Research Day, cancer consultants (oncologists), patients, and researchers have come together to highlight the urgent need for new cancer treatments.  They are asking the public to help 'buy back time' for cancer patients by sponsoring a research scienitits time through Breakthrough Cancer Research.  One person in Ireland dies every hour from cancer, a figure which Breakthrough Cancer Research (Breakthrough) says will tragically increase as cancer screenings, treatments, and research have all lost months to COVID-19.  Consultants say that this could be months too late for someone and cost them years of their life as people are now presenting with more advanced stages of cancer and therefore more difficult to treat. 

According to research published recently in The Lancet Oncology Journal, disruption to cancer diagnosis services (referrals and routine screening) combined with people avoiding healthcare settings because of the COVID-19 pandemic could result in an increase in avoidable deaths from the four main cancers in England by 2025.[1] This increase in cancer mortality could be as high as 20% [2]. No official figures have been released in Ireland on excess mortality, however, electronic referrals for cancer services decreased from 4499 (Jan 2020) to 2659 (April 2020), while eReferrals for radiology decreased from 5077 (Jan 2020) to 1485 (April 2020).  There is significant concern the Irish figure could be even higher than the UK model estimates as screening and some treatments remain disrupted.

Earlier this summer, the HSE and NCCP (National Cancer Control Programme) publicly urged patients to show for appointments and not delay having symptoms checked out after the number of patients being referred to cancer diagnostic services had worryingly dropped.

Consultants say this should be treated as an equally important emergency. While there is no vaccine currently for COVID, there are new treatments ready for cancer patients that can be brought to clinical trial, if funding was available, so lives can be saved now. 

Therefore an urgent appeal has been launched called ‘Buy Back Time’ to help raise money for Breakthrough Cancer Research (Breakthrough), who are leading the way in cancer research and help fund critical research and clinical trials throughout the country for new cancer treatments. They help to give patients with the most difficult to treat cancers new options and more time.

The charity had to put some of its research and even clinical trials into chemo resistant cancers on hold over the past few months because of temporary restrictions to university laboratories and hospitals, as well as financial constraints due to the widespread cancelation of fundraising events.  The Buy Back Time campaign aims to help restart research programmes into new and more effective treatments.

Speaking at the launch of Breakthrough Cancer Research’s ‘Buy Back Time’ campaign, Dr. Dearbhaile Collins, Consultant Medical Oncologist at Cork University Hospital and UCC, and cancer researcher, who leads clinical trials in Cork said, “We are calling on the public to once again support the medical profession, but this time - instead of donating food and cosmetics - we are looking for support for our patients.  There's no vaccine for Covid yet but there are new treatments for cancer being developed all the time and increased funding can help get them to patients sooner. We have to bring down the statistic of one patient dying from cancer every hour of every day.

New treatment options have never been more important.  In addition to being particularly vulnerable to the virus and experiencing months of isolation, cancer patients’ treatments were disrupted, screening programmes were delayed and many people avoided investigating new symptoms during the lockdown, as they were either too scared to go to their GP or they didn’t want to burden the healthcare system. This has led to a delay in cancer diagnoses, meaning that some people are now presenting with more advanced cancer and therefore more difficult to treat.

“Research and clinical trials for new and better cancer treatments were also put on hold for months.  That could be months too late for one of our patients …and cost them years of their life.  We want to help Breakthrough Cancer Research raise money to fund new treatments that will buy more time for our patients and save more lives, now and in the future. Never more has it needed the support from the public by way of fundraising and donations. Every second counts.  We don’t want to lose any more time or any more people.”

Stage 4 cancer patient Kay Curtin said, “Not so long ago, stage 4 cancer meant the end as there were no effective treatments.  Thanks to cancer research, I have been at stage four for 4.5 years now and I have a really good quality of life.  This would have been unheard of back only a few years ago, then I would have been given 6 months max. But I’m aware that I’m living on borrowed time.  What is currently keeping me alive is going to stop working at some stage.”

“The last few months have been particularly difficult for all cancer patients.  Medics have been amazing at finding ways to treat us, but the reality is that while I was able to get my treatment safely -  which is critical or I wouldn’t be here - the research that will keep me alive into the future has been stalled.  I need researchers to find the next treatment that will buy me more time.  I look to the future quite hopeful that, by the time I need it, there will be another option there for me.  We must fund our future outcomes now. Cancer never takes a break neither can we”

Breakthrough Cancer Research says the research they fund is now at a critical stage, where ground-breaking treatments are within sight. The charity is proud to work with researchers and scientists on exciting developments in cell-therapy, immuno-therapy and personalised medicine, which will improve survival rates and minimise side effects of current treatments.

Orla Dolan, CEO at Breakthrough Cancer Research said, “As cancer research funders, we are always looking for ways to shorten the time it takes to get new effective treatments to patients who are waiting for them.  It has been a difficult few months - trials were put on hold, experiments had to be discarded and our dedicated funded researchers were locked out of their labs.  Like all charities, we have also seen a significant drop in funding, which has halted important research projects that were scheduled to start.  We urgently need to make up the time we have lost, and with public support, even increase the pace.  The need is, and will be, greater than ever and we are desperate to continue our work with scientists, researchers and clinicians throughout Ireland and around the world to develop cutting edge new treatments for the cancer patients who need them”.

Over the past 20 years, Breakthrough has helped bring 8 novel treatments to clinical trial and the organisation has a further 5 in the pipeline.  Their aim is to give better futures to cancer patients sooner but they need support to do so.

If you want to contribute to the vital work that Breakthrough Cancer Research, you can buy lab time on or text BCR to 50300 to donate €4*.

*Text costs €4. Breakthrough Cancer Research will receive a minimum of €3.60. Service Provide: LIKECHARITY, Helpline 076 6805278.

Businesses including are donating advertising airtime on TV and radio on World Cancer Research Day to help raise funds.




  3. Electronic referrals for cancer services decreased from 4499 (Jan 2020) to 2659 (April 2020)
  4. eReferrals for radiology decreased from 5077 (Jan 2020) to 1485 (April 2020)



For further information, please contact

Niamh Murphy, ETC / 0870617705


© Site Designed by Granite Digital