The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is working collaboratively with other research partners from across the region on over 120 clinical trials to help develop new and innovative ways to treat various types of cancer.
This year, The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre also celebrated ten years as the host of the Merseyside and Cheshire Cancer Research Network, which has helped increase the number of local people being recruited to take part in international cancer research from four to 23 per cent since 2002.
Jenny Almond, Director of Research at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, which plays a huge role in developing and supporting research, gives readers a behind the scenes look at how treatments are taken from a lab to becoming a standard of care across the UK, and even the world.
What is a clinical trial?
Clinical trials are a crucial part of investigating which treatments and medicines work best for patients. They are the final step in a long process that begins with research in a lab and many treatments used today are the result of past clinical trials.
In terms of cancer treatment, clinical trials are used to find new ways to treat cancer, find and diagnose the disease, prevent cancer and also manage symptoms and side effects of existing treatments. By taking part in research, patients can help improve cancer care for both themselves and future generations.
We understand these trials take part in phases, what does that mean?
That’s right, for a treatment to become a standard of care; it must first go through three or four clinical phases. The early phases make sure the treatment is safe and later phases show if it works more effectively than the treatments that are already in place.
In later phases of a trial, several thousands of suitable patients will take part across the country in order to allow the research results to be accurate and reliable.
How does a patient know if they’re suitable to take part in a clinical trial?
Each patient is assessed by their consultant on a case by case basis and their symptoms, stage of the cancer and other health implications will be taken into consideration. A consultant will only offer this as an option for treatment if they feel the patient could benefit.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre prides itself on its track record of referring patients from Merseyside and Cheshire onto world leading clinical trials for all types of cancer. We have developed excellent relationships with our partner organisations including The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Liverpool Cancer Research UK Centre, The University of Liverpool and the Liverpool Cancer Trials Unit in order to develop and deliver a range of trials for patients in the North West and beyond.
Can you give us an example of a clinical trial that’s currently underway at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre?
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is currently involved in two clinical trials in gene therapy, which could mark a shift in cancer treatment. Gene therapy is given to patients in a vaccination form and aims to change the way in which the immune system reacts to cancer cells.
Cancer cells can ‘hide’ from the immune system making it hard for the body to recognise them as foreign and harmful. Gene therapy could help the body to recognise cancer cells and generate an immune response, which will kill cancer, meaning that the patient does not need to undergo more invasive treatments.
Could people with all types of cancer benefit from gene therapy?
The two trials currently underway, BNIT and TRIOC, are offered to men suffering from prostate cancer and women with ovarian cancer. The trials are aimed at those whose first line of treatment has failed, but who show few symptoms of the advanced stages of cancer.
The Centre has also previously been involved in trials for gene therapy treatment for lung cancer, melanoma, and in head and neck cancer.
Will the proposed new Clatterbridge Cancer Centre site further extend its research capabilities?
The proposed development of the new Clatterbridge Cancer Centre site in central Liverpool will help strengthen the research offering and expertise of the Centre. There are certain trials which need to be held within an acute hospital so the new site will further increase the number of suitable trials for the Centre as it will be based next to the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital and within close proximity to The University of Liverpool and the Cancer Research UK Centre. All of this combined will give The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre the chance to offer even more patients access to life-changing trials so it can remain at the forefront of these pioneering research processes.
To support the fight against cancer, the Action on Cancer campaign aims to keep local residents up to date over the coming months with the latest cancer-related news and plans to improve services over the coming years, including the new Clatterbridge Cancer Centre site in central Liverpool.