Ireland's first clinical trial for a cell therapy to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, is to start at St James's Hospital in Dublin this week.
Ireland is part of a global study to see if this therapy works in people newly diagnosed with this rare form of blood cancer, for whom a stem cell transplant is not planned as an initial treatment.
The cell therapy, CAR-T, involves drawing a type of white blood cells from a patient's blood, and genetically altering them in a lab before transfusing them back into the patient to fight the cancer.
Around 2,200 people are living with the condition and 352 people are diagnosed each year.
It is incurable with an average survival period of eight to ten years.
Multiple myeloma starts in the bone marrow and most commonly affects people over the age of 65.
It is more common in men than in women.
The bone marrow cancer often affects a number of parts of the body including the spine, skull, pelvis and ribs.
The Irish trial is being led by consultant haematologist at St James's Hospital Dr Larry Bacon.
The study is being sponsored by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and is a collaboration with teams at St James’s Hospital, the Department of Health, the Health Products Regulatory Authority and the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme.
Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Dr Bacon said modifying the cells was a big advance in treatment of myeloma.
Currently cells are removed and a patient undergoes chemotherapy before the cells are transplanted back.
The modification means the cells are better able to fight myeloma, he said.
Dr Bacon said the trial is for a very specific niche of patients - those who are not fit enough to have a stem cell transplant up front - and not everyone will qualify.
He said the blood cancer is currently incurable but that survival has improved over time, from two to three years in the early 2000s up to between nine and ten years now.
He added the cancer can cause bone destruction and renal failure.
People in deprived areas more likely to develop cancer
Separately, a study of cancer incidence and five-year survival rates has found that people living in the most deprived areas of the country are more likely to develop cancer and much more likely to die from cancer, compared to people living in the most affluent parts of the country.
The findings are part of a study carried out by the National Cancer Registry Ireland.
Co-editor of the National Cancer Registry Ireland report Dr Niamh Bambury said the study looked at three aspects of cancer to determine if there are any inequalities: incidents, survival and stage.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said: "Our main findings were that people living in the most deprived areas had a higher incidence of overall cancer compared with those living in the least deprived areas. So, males had a 7% higher risk of overall cancer and females had a 5% risk of overall cancer."
She said the study also looked at whether there was any narrowing or widening of these disparities over time.
Dr Bambury said there was no significant narrowing of this inequality over the three periods in this report.
She explained that the term "deprivation" was assigned at a geographic level and not based on individuals.
"What happens mostly at geographic level is that you will have people of varying levels of affluence within that one area. So, while it might be deemed to be the most survived, there will be people of varying levels of affluence, so therefore not everybody in that geographic location will experience the same cancer inequalities as everybody else in that area".
While overall cancer incidence is falling and people's outcomes are improving, there is no reduction in the disparity between outcomes for people in deprived compared to affluent areas, she said.
She said the disparities are due to several factors, including health inequalities and social-economic factors such as income, employment and education.