Today is International Clinical Trials Day, established in 2005 to raise awareness of the importance of clinical trials. May 20th, of course, marks the anniversary of the first recorded clinical trial in 1747, carried out by Scottish surgeon James Lind on a number of sailors to test the effects of cider, vinegar and lemons on scurvy).
To mark the day, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has launched their “OK to ask about clinical research” campaign. The campaign sets out to encourage patients and carers to ask their doctors about clinical research and whether it’s right for them. Often patients are unaware of clinical research opportunities, so the NIHR is keen to encourage patients to initiate a conversation with their clinician about options available to them.
Clinical trials are crucial to developing new treatments, and an area where blood cancer has traditionally lagged behind in recent years. Whilst 19% of all cancer patients have access to trials, that figure falls to just 6% when looking just at blood cancer patients. This is down to many reasons, such as low patient numbers, a lack of specialist centres, and high start-up costs for trials.
At Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, no-one knows more about the difficulties blood cancer patients face getting on trials than Geoff Thomas, who since his own successful treatment has been working with us to deliver the Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP).
“When I was diagnosed in 2003, there were simply not enough trials going on in blood cancer,” says Geoff. “Trials are essential for converting our leading research into life-saving new treatments, which makes TAP such a crucial programme. By bringing together research centres across the country, and working with researchers, clinicians and industry, TAP will play a big role in getting more blood cancer patients on clinical trials.”
Trials have come a long way since 1747, and there is still much to be done to make trials available to as many patients as possible. But through our ongoing work at LLR, and initiatives like those being launched today, we hope many more patients will be able to benefit from trials in the months and years ahead.