The Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) is an exciting initiative by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research to deliver more life-saving treatments to blood cancer patients through the acceleration of clinical trials.
By setting up a network of leading treatment centres around the UK, coordinated by a dedicated central hub, TAP accelerates the set up and recruitment to clinical trials, allowing more new drugs and treatments to be tested faster than ever before.
Developing and delivering successful new treatments depends on clinical trials
Clinical trials test new drugs in patients and are vital for moving breakthroughs made in the lab into new drugs, diagnostic tools and other treatments that improve survival and quality of life.
Despite the fact that laboratory research continues to yield promising new treatments, it is often difficult or slow to test these in clinical trials and potentially life-saving drugs are left to sit on the shelf.
More clinical trials will save more lives in the UK
We want to change the way clinical trials are run in the UK so more patients have access to promising new treatments in the future. TAP aims to help get patients recruited to a portfolio of world class early stage clinical trials in blood cancers. Its establishment has made a real difference in the number and quality of new clinical trials testing promising new therapies and diagnostics. It's a crucial link between the discoveries made in the lab and the new treatments patients receive.
The clinical trials ‘bottleneck’
Before new drugs become part of routine care for patients, they need to go through a series of these phased clinical trials. Early phase trials (I and II) that test the safety and effectiveness of very new treatments are the most difficult to set up.
A lack of early phase trials is causing a bottleneck that prevents new treatments getting to blood cancer patients, when they most need them.
Clinical trials in the UK, particularly in blood cancers are notoriously difficult to set up and can be slow to deliver results. Currently it can take anything from four to ten years to complete a trial and analyse the results.
This is for a variety of reasons. One is a lack of staff resources in hospitals to manage the trial paperwork and additional patient care. Another is the vital bureaucracy involved in getting new studies off the ground – for example, deciding who can join the trial, the schedule and doses of treatment, and how long it will take, as well as all the necessary ethical approval.
Another important issue is that blood cancers, taken as individual diseases are relatively rare (see here). As trials have very specific patient requirements, like type of disease, age and general health, it is often difficult for a single hospital to recruit enough patients onto a trial. Some trials are never even completed.
New drugs to patients, faster
We have selected 13 treatment centres around the UK, coordinated by a central hub in Birmingham to set up more blood cancer clinical trials, quicker than ever before.
TAP has centres all around the UK, including north and south England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
TAP will see blood cancer clinical trials being completed within two years; the extensive paper work and bureaucracy surrounding clinical trials mean that currently these can take anything up to ten years to complete.
As of January 2015, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research will commit a further five years of funding for the TAP Coordinating Hub and two years of funding for the network of TAP Centres.
Our new long-term investment into the central hub is £5 million for the five years – this supports an expert team of scientists skilled at setting up clinical trials to ensure that new trials open at each of the 13 treatment centres, simultaneously. This increases the catchment area meaning that each trial recruits the right number of patients more efficiently, the results are delivered faster, and patients have access to emerging treatments – wherever they live in the UK.
We have invested a further £1 million over the next two years to ensure that each TAP Centre has a dedicated research nurse to look after patients on our trials and get the results processed more quickly. By getting more trials in the system and delivering them more quickly, patients in the future benefit from having more tried-and-tested treatment options.
Boosting UK industry
Pharmaceutical companies have shown a great interest in TAP as they can see the benefit of a streamlined trials network for the development and testing of new drugs.
We plan to nurture this relationship and deliver potentially life-saving new blood cancer treatments that can be tested in patients, at little cost to the charity and the NHS.
This initiative has long-term benefits to the UK industry and the potential for creating hundreds, or even thousands, of new jobs.
Change for the future
TAP was launched in 2011 and now has 15 trials being set up– seven of these are already recruiting patients. We are proud to have this initiative in place until 2020and are in talks with the government and other charities, who are watching closely as they recognise that this model is an excellent framework for running trials in other diseases too.
With this further investment it means TAP can finish all the trials that are ongoing, and set up even more studies to test exciting new therapies and diagnostics. And it’s worth remembering, that once this infrastructure is in place, many trials can be delivered at no additional cost.
A big long-term investment for big patient impact.