A Tribute to Pat Smullen From Cancer Trials Ireland

Pat Smullen | Healy Racing Photographers

Editor's note, the following is a letter sent from Cancer Trials Ireland to the family of Pat Smullen, who passed away from pancreatic cancer on Tuesday evening.

To the family of Pat Smullen

It is with a very heavy heart that, on behalf of the staff and members of Cancer Trials Ireland, we put pen to paper in remembrance of our friend, and benefactor, Pat Smullen.

Pat was a friend like no other. Almost a year ago to the day, Pat and his supporters raised a game-changing €2.6m for pancreatic cancer clinical trials. We would like to put this into context for you–just how dramatic and unusual this degree of fundraising is.

Earlier this year, Comic Relief reached out to the entire country and raised almost €6m with the help of a host of celebs across several hours of primetime TV. Pat Smullen and the horse racing community raised almost half that–€2.6m–for pancreatic cancer clinical trials alone. People diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Ireland will feel the benefit of it for years, if not decades, to come.

The low incidence of pancreatic cancer (around 560 people diagnosed in Ireland each year), the fact that it is not usually diagnosed early, and the relative difficulty of treating the disease effectively with the usual tools (chemotherapy; radiotherapy) make for a challenging, sparse research environment. But as a direct result of the funds Pat helped raise, Cancer Trials Ireland received nine research proposals this year. Three studies are now being advanced or explored, one of which will open in Ireland in a matter of weeks.

That is the work Pat has enabled us to do. But that is not all that Pat did for Cancer Trials Ireland. Last November, he helped us to raise more than €120,000 for ovarian and prostate cancer trials. Earlier this year, he gave us the go ahead to fund a Next Generation Sequencing machine (€100,000) for St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin. This machine will allow doctors to genetically sequence pancreatic cancer tumours, and other tumours, potentially opening up treatment options for thousands of people with all types of cancer. On a more personal level, Pat continually made himself available for interviews, photo calls, and phone calls–anything that might help people in a situation similar to his own.

It is a mark of the man that he had such a wide-ranging generosity. Pat's popularity–and humility – was and is legendary. It was truly remarkable, and inspiring, to see that these qualities can coexist with the drive and determination it takes to reach the very top of his demanding sport. Our thoughts, today and always, are with the Pat's wife Frances, his children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, and his wider family.

Clinical trials offer patients very real, tangible, important benefits–but they can also provide something as vital as it is intangible: Hope. That is Pat's real gift to the people who come after him, who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The outpouring of love and support his efforts have generated give hope to us all.

Thank you, Pat.

Eibhlín Mulroe, CEO & Prof Ray McDermott, Clinical Lead, Cancer Trials Ireland – on behalf of staff


Funeral Arrangements

  • Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a private family funeral will be held at 2 p.m. in St. Peter's Church, Rhode, Co. Offaly on Friday, Sept. 18th, followed by burial in the adjoining cemetery.
  • To view the funeral mass via Zoom, the Meeting ID is 6949803979 and the Passcode is 12345.
  • The Smullen family would like to thank you for your understanding and support at this difficult and sad time.


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