Cancer Research UK has announced that £45 million will be invested into its network of clinical trials units across the UK, one of the charity’s largest investments in clinical research to date.
Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials units (CTUs) bring together world leading researchers and clinicians to find life-saving new treatments and tests for cancer patients.
Clinical trials are the only way to find out if a new treatment is safe to use, and if it’s better than existing treatments. Each year, around 25,000 people take part in a clinical trial that’s supported by Cancer Research UK.
The huge sum will be divided over 5 years across 8 CTUs in Cardiff, Birmingham, Glasgow, Southampton, Leeds and London (at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, UCL, and Queen Mary University of London).
Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “Our clinical research enables us to translate discoveries from the lab in order to improve cancer diagnostics and treatments, giving more patients the best chance of beating their disease.
“This is particularly important for patients with hard to treat cancers, including pancreatic, oesophageal, lung and brain tumours, where options for treatment are limited and survival rates remain poor.”
Cancer Research UK’s CTUs specialise in the design, delivery and analysis of trials that bring the latest scientific developments to patients all over the UK. They’re a vital part of the charity’s research network, helping shape the clinical research landscape in the UK and internationally.
Each of the charity’s CTUs has a different specialist focus including children’s cancer trials, cancer screening, and population research.
In Birmingham, there will be dedicated funding for finding new treatments for children with cancer.
Professor Pamela Kearns, director of Birmingham’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials unit and Cancer Research UK’s children’s cancer expert, said: “Clinical trials are vital to test new treatments and improve the care of children with cancer. For example, within my team, with support from Cancer Research UK, we run the International BEACON trial, testing new combinations of therapies for children and young people with a type of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma, at a stage where they have failed to respond to standard treatments.
“One question this trial is trying to answer is if a drug called bevacizumab can help treat their neuroblastoma. Bevacizumab is a type of biological therapy called a monoclonal antibody that targets the tumour’s blood supply. Doctors already treat adult cancers with this drug and we want to see if it works for children with neuroblastoma.”
Trials are also helping us to find kinder treatments with fewer side effects.
Oliver Waugh, aged 54 from London, was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in 2009. As part of his treatment, he took part in a Cancer Research UK funded clinical trial which investigated a new type of radiotherapy called Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT). Researchers wanted to find out if IMRT caused fewer side effects and if it worked as well as standard radiotherapy for head and neck cancers.
He said: “I was really pleased to have joined because I know the side effects from regular radiotherapy could have been far more severe. My mouth started to produce saliva again not long after treatment, and I slowly started to put weight back on.
“Now I eat what I want, including curries and other spicy food and feel lucky that the high quality of my treatment has helped me lead a regular life again and I can honestly say I’m fitter than I’ve ever been.
“I feel fortunate to have been offered the chance to help medical research and I hope that many more patients like me will get to lead full and healthy lives because of these improvements in treatment.”