July 4th 2022: ‘The People There to Catch Us’ tells the story of Tom Hope and Rachel O’Mahony, two cancer survivors who work alongside researchers at Precision Oncology Ireland (POI), to help improve the lives of others living with the disease. The documentary, produced by Ronan Cassidy of Carbonated Comet and Directed by Luke Brabazon, will have its world premiere at the Galway International Film Fleadh on July 7th 2022.

This is the latest Science on Screen Documentary, a joint initiative between CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway, and Ardán, the non-profit organisation across Ireland to support creatives within the audio-visual industry. ‘The People There to Catch Us’ was produced in collaboration with POI and the Patient Voice in Cancer Research (PVCR) and funded by CÚRAM, the All-Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI), the UCD-Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) and the National Breast Cancer Research Institute (NBCRI).

The film features Dr Róisín Dwyer (POI Investigator, NUIG), Prof. William Gallagher (POI Deputy Director, UCD Conway Institute and Co-Lead, AICRI) and Prof. Walter Kolch (POI Director, UCD) all of whom are focused on personalised cancer research at Precision Oncology Ireland.

‘Precision Oncology Ireland researchers are working on developing a variety of targeted approaches to diagnose and more accurately treat cancer patients based on the exact type of disease they have and their own personal biology. In the past, cancer patients were only offered generalised approaches, such as chemotherapy, to tackle their disease, often leading to significant side effects. Our team is working hard to find unique characteristics of certain cancers that can be used to improve patient outcomes while lessening the challenge of side effects explains Prof. William Gallagher, POI Deputy Director and AICRI Co-Lead, whose own personal experience with cancer in his family continues to shape and motivate his approach to cancer research.

‘We all have had some experience of cancer, whether directly or through family members or friends, and one in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime’, says Dr Róisín Dwyer, CÚRAM Investigator and POI researcher who has worked with Rachel O’Mahony in the years following her cancer diagnosis. ‘Patient contribution to the research process can have a huge impact and will help to guide the development of targeted therapies with less debilitating side effects so that patients can live full enjoyable lives.’  

Tom Hope explains his role as a patient advocate, saying ‘I am now involved as a patient on a number of committees with oncologists, radiologists, urologists and scientists. Sharing my personal experiences, I have found that most medics don’t understand the anxiety that diagnosis and treatment can cause a patient and their family. In addition to occasionally discussing research with scientists and giving them the benefit of my lived experience of cancer, I have had the great pleasure of acting as a peer-to-peer volunteer and sharing my personal experience with men diagnosed with prostate cancer. In this way, I hope that I am giving them comfort that their experience is not unique, with supports being there to get through their treatment and live a normal life. A few comforting words telling you that you can get through this, can make all the difference,’ he says.

Alan Duggan, manager of Ardán, said “We are incredibly proud to have worked with CÚRAM again and with POI through the Science on Screen initiative to produce this powerful documentary. We have all been affected by cancer in our lives in some way. ‘The People There To Catch Us’ highlights the human element involved in helping improve the lives of those living with the disease, while also focusing on the incredible work and research being done behind the scenes to combat the disease in more targeted ways."

The documentary shines a light on the lived experience of cancer survivors, their contribution to the research and the ongoing work of research centres like CÚRAM and Precision Oncology Ireland that will shape how cancer will be treated in the future.

‘The People There to Catch Us’ will screen at the Town Hall Galway at 10 am on Thursday July 7th 2022. Tickets are available from the Galway Film Fleadh website.

This is the seventh documentary produced through the CÚRAM-Ardán Science on Screen initiative, which aims to facilitate, promote and increase the inclusion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) content in Irish film and TV production. The partnership began in 2016 with CÚRAM funding documentary filmmaking and providing access to leading scientists and laboratories within CÚRAM to explore methods of scientific ‘storytelling’ and to produce short films that incorporate current research at CÚRAM and its partners. These documentaries are available for community and educational screenings nationwide. Find out more on the CÚRAM engage website.