More than 10 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer in Wales are taking part in a cancer clinical trial. This represents a significant increase from only 2.5 per cent of patients back in 1997 or a jump from 415 people to currently over 1600 every year.
Ten years ago only a few areas of Wales were included in cancer clinical trials and research doctors and nurses were working in isolation. The Wales Cancer Trials Network (WCTN) – jointly funded by Cancer Research UK and the Welsh Assembly Government – was set up in 1998 to overcome these problems and help increase recruitment into high quality, publicly funded cancer clinical trials.
The number of patients entering trials has more than trebled since the WCTN began. The network has supported 8162 patients to enter trials aimed at improving anti-cancer treatments since it began.
Welsh patients were included in the Herceptin and Exemestane trials that have led to improved breast cancer treatment this year.
Bridget McNally – a 46 year old breast cancer patient from South Wales – is taking part in the ZICE* trial at Velindre Hospital. The trial compares an oral drug – ibandronate – to an intravenous drug – zoledronate – in the treatment of breast cancer patients with secondary cancer in their bones.
Bridget liked the idea that she would be monitored regularly so any changes would be picked up quickly and she would have the additional support of specialist trial nurses. After the nurses provided all the information about the trial Bridget learned that she was eligible and decided to take part.
Bridget said: “I feel good coming here and taking part in the trial. This might sound strange because I’m coming to a hospital full of cancer patients, but I actually feel positive coming to this environment. There are experts around me who I can talk to about anything – any worries are immediately sorted out which is great!”
“Doctors and nurses listened to me and help me feel like I’m not just a number – they treat me as an individual with my own worries and needs. They ring me to make to sure everything is okay and I’m feeling well; they don’t just forget about me between appointments. They really understand what you are going through. I haven’t got a negative thought about any of it. Throughout the whole experience everybody has been fantastic.”
Bridget is a keen fundraiser for Cancer Research UK. Last year she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and currently chairs a committee for Relay for Life. She believes it is extremely valuable that patients in Wales are able to participate in clinical trials.
“Since starting my treatment I’ve learnt how important clinical trials are. These studies help to find better treatments. And they help discover which have less side-effects or relieve symptoms. Without clinical trials we won’t see any improvement in the future of cancer treatment.”
Professor Tim Maughan, Director of the WCTN, said: “In addition to providing a vital testing ground for new treatments and medicines, clinical trials benefit the patients who take part by providing high quality monitoring and care. The WCTN was started so that these benefits could be extended across the whole NHS in Wales. This pattern of support for clinical research across networks of hospitals was initiated in 1998 and has subsequently been taken up by the rest of the UK.
“This was limited initially to cancer research, under the auspices of the National Cancer Research Network, and since 2006 is being spread across all other aspects of medicine in the UK Clinical Research Network. This tremendous achievement for Wales represents the ongoing hard work and enthusiasm of cancer teams, research support staff, patients and their families across the Principality.”
Kate Law, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical trials, said: “The WCTN has been tremendously successful, with more patients than ever before being given the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial.
“Clinical trials are vital in cancer research. All new treatments are thoroughly tested in the lab first but we then need to find out how well they work in people. Without clinical trials, we wouldn’t know which drugs are best to prevent and treat cancer.”
“By participating in trials, patients can play a more active role in their own health care and help others by contributing to research.”
For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300, or the out-of-hours duty press officer on 07050 264059.
*Zoledronate versus Ibandronate Comparative Evaluation
May 21 is International Clinical Trials Day
Wales has over 100 cancer trials running at the moment, the majority of which are large UK studies with 50 to 100 centres involved. For further information contact 01745 445211 (North Wales); 02920 196193 (South East Wales); or 01792 285200 (South West Wales).
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