Cancer research in Thames Valley

Cancer research in Thames Valley


The cancer speciality is a big area of research historically in the NHS. For many, many years we’ve been pioneers in delivering clinical
trials. The cancer speciality is a very large vast area with multiple different
sub-areas indicative of the type of cancer that patients have. We broadly classified
thirteen different sub-specialities within cancer. The common ones people
would have heard of is breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer
and blood cancers. There are other cancers that we have trials open in:
brain cancer, sarcoma, children’s cancer and these are all indicative of the fact
how broad cancer research is. In cancer we have over 700 trials and a number of
new trials come onboard annually and these trials are run across the country
and recruit well over thirty to forty thousand patients annually and patients
take part in trials where in they’re being tested with a new drug or could be
to try and see whether we can identify cancer early in patients and also in
some patients where there’s an established treatment and then you want
to add a new treatment to see whether that would make a difference. In the
UK we’re proud in delivering a number of cancer trials over a number of years.
The cancer strategy framework that has come out through CRUK as well as the
new NHS plan all have a big emphasis on early diagnosis of cancer. It
is evidently clear that if you were to diagnose a person with any cancer in an
early stage and if that can be rectified then there’s a potential for cure. So
there’s a big push to diagnosing cancer patients early. If I were to give you an
example there is a type of study where people are being tested for early
cancerous growth in the food pipe and there are new devices being used to try
and see whether you can pull out cancer cells and detect them early and that is
one sort of an example. Another example if I were to give you was there is a
medical detection dog study that we run within our network here in Thames Valley
and South Midlands wherein we are looking at the ability of dogs to detect
cancer early, particularly in patients with urological cancers, bladder
cancer and prostate cancer. The principle is whether if you were to give a dog a
urine sample; a normal urine sample in someone who doesn’t have cancer and
then present the dog a sample from a cancer patient, whether the dog is able
to detect which one has the cancer cell which one doesn’t have the cancer cell.
What we’re currently doing is in its early phase of testing, we want to
see whether the dogs can be trained up adequately to detect these early cancers
and once we know that the dogs have been sufficiently trained up then we put
them to the real test of actually being able to look at what the
detection capability of the dogs are. It’s important to recognise this is
still a trial and it’s going through several phases of testing. This all
signifies the importance that the NIHR has taken within the cancer portfolio to
try and drive early diagnosis in cancer. The second
area that I would probably want to highlight in cancer is we now understand
cancers better in a genetic sense and we want to see how we can drive this
understanding in delivering better treatments for our patients. So
increasingly many new trials in corporate early genetic testing and that
divides patients up into having that particular gene or not having that
particular gene and be able to personalise trial treatments and this
really has taken up very well with the commercial companies who are developing
personalised therapies as well. So we’ve been able to deliver a number
commercial studies in the UK because of our capability in delivering genetic
diagnostics within the cancer setting. The third area which has always been a
traditional area of cancer research is finding new drugs to try and keep people
alive or even to try and cure patients. So again a number of therapeutics have
come through. New ways of treating cancer have come through over the years. This is
not restricted to blood cancers across all cancers and we’re now able to do a
number of trials where we’re able to combine drugs or combine with existing
very good drugs in cancer and therefore able to lengthen the period of remission,
meaning good health or hopefully even try and find a cure. Cancer research is an
important area and the improving survival that has been noticed with
cancer in the last few years has been primarily due to people engaging
themselves in research in the past. A common thing I often say to my patients
in clinic and when I present them with the a clinical trial saying ‘would you
like to participate in this clinical trial?’ and often what I tell them is a lot of treatments that they would have had up until then, before I present
them with these treatment options, they’re all treatments that someone was
sat in their position listening to you know that drug and that treatment five
years or ten years prior and that’s our NHS is modelled. I think whatever
we do today, we help people who come tomorrow, but that’s not exactly the case
there are some people who have had some treatments through cancer trials which
has made a real difference to their personal lives as well, so there is that
personal benefit they build contributing to science in general and also there’s
this altruistic purpose of actually giving themselves to research
with an ability that that helps people down the line.


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