As many of you now know Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research's early phase Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) has progressed from a pilot to a full programme and has been funded for another 5 years. That new funding period started on January 1st this year. This long-term investment into clinical trials will continue to resource the trials Hub in Birmingham and 13 networked trial centres in leading research hospitals around the UK. To date, 15 early phase trials have been taken into the programme and 9 trials are open - with 450+ patients recruited!
The pilot phase of TAP which preceded this new investment proved to be hugely successful in terms of opening trials, recruitment and attracting pharma industry interest, but it's also provided an invaluable learning opportunity for both Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and the scientific and clinical staff involved. The main outcomes are summarised below.
Key TAP pilot successes so far
- Funding this hub-and-spoke model has meant we can set up trials and do all the administration much more quickly
- The programme now has large buy-in from the blood cancer clinical community, and has attracted the attention of government and umbrella research organisations
- TAP is fully in line with the national cancer research strategy
- There are dedicated and named TAP staff in recruitment centres, which means we've been able to recruit patients to trials successfully and efficiently
- A number of roadblocks have been identified, such as feasibility, contracts and centre engagement, allowing processes to be put in place to overcome them
To kick this new 5 year programme off, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research hosted an annual TAP workshop meeting on 9 January. The workshop was held at the University of London SOAS building and was attended by just under 70 delegates and speakers drawn from the Hub team, the TAP centres, clinicians, research nurses, representatives of the National Institute for Health Research and Cancer Research UK Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs), industry (Novartis, Celgene, Bristol Myers Squib and Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries and the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) clinical studies groups and subgroups. This meeting provided a forum for the TAP community to come together, discuss progress, learn developments and discuss the future of the programme.
Summary of discussions
There was representation from across the TAP community and strong engagement from TAP centre leads, which was encouraging and valuable. The discussions had an engaging and positive tone. Where challenges were made, they were done so alongside suggested improvements and with the desire to contribute to TAP’s success.
The morning session was dedicated to updating the audience on the TAP: its history, its strategic importance to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research’s integrated patient impact strategy, and its national and international impact. The session also focused on the challenges of the future and the pending competitive re-bid for centre renewals under external peer review. The afternoon had presentations on the viewpoint of the programme from industry, NCRI and ECMC perspectives, biobanking, research partnership and integration and trial design.
The afternoon included a break out session for trial staff and nurses. This provided a chance to hear and discuss trial opportunities across the portfolio and to share best practice and lessons for maximal efficiency.
"The energy to make TAP a success and the spirit of collaboration throughout the day was truly uplifting. Within Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research we fully appreciate the broad impact that TAP is having on boosting the capacity and speed of early phase blood cancer trials, but I was really excited to hear the motivation to make translational science so integral to the programme.
"This is key to delivering precision medicine and in making intelligent decisions about future therapeutic development, so making this a core part of the programme shows yet another way in which TAP can become a pioneering model for quick and effective drug development in medical research."
Dr Matt Kaiser – Head of Research
“The distinctive and important relationship that the TAP network has fostered with the pharmaceutical industry seems to be unique within the UK and was the most exciting aspect I took from the day. The access to novel and promising new agents is ultimately what the programme is looking for and the symbiotically beneficial relationship we are building with industry bodes very well for the future”.
Emil Kazounis – TAP manager
Besides the formal presentations, there were many individual conversations generating a tangible buzz. Chris Bunce our Research Director was taken with one conversation in particular with Mary Frances McMullin, who's the Principal Investigator responsible for the Belfast Trials Acceleration Programme Centre. Mary was excited to tell Chris of an 80 year old AML patient in remission on TAP's RAvVA trial.
“This trial has brought about several changes in practice over and above the actual therapy which I think is of benefit to the patients. First of all it's a treatment which has been offered to increasing numbers of elderly patients with AML who previously we would probably not even considered suitable for treatment.
The result is that I now see several patients at least one over 80 years who have gone into remission and are well on maintenance therapy.
The second change is the movement to a day patient / outpatient therapy for patients including relapsed patients.
This means that newly diagnosed patients who previously would have occupied a bed for 6-8 weeks are now getting treated in the day unit as an outpatient.
Mary Frances McMullin, Professor of Clinical Haematology, Queens University Belfast
So, apologies for the rather long blog! But with so much valuable discussion, new developments and insightful views, there’s lots to share on the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research TAP front. I'll be posting again soon to update on the new TAP microsite, new trials and future plans.