Our Trials Acceleration Programme

Potentially life-saving new treatments were taking up to 10 years to get to patients, because some clinical trials used to happen very slowly. So we set up our Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) to speed them up and get new treatments to more patients, more quickly.

The problem

Before we set our Trials Acceleration Programme up a researcher could have a great idea, but might not have everything they needed to get a trial off the ground, like access to a hospital and research nurses. They might have struggled completing all of the complex paperwork needed for a clinical trial. This meant that life-saving new treatments were getting left on the shelf.

Even if they did get their idea into a clinical trial, the trials were:

  • expensive to run
  • needed lots of support
  • could take up to a decade to complete because of the red tape involved and the difficulty recruiting patients to take part in them.

If we think a drug will save lives, we think 10 years is too long for patients to wait to use it. It’s definitely too long for patients who have no other hope of a cure.

The solution

In 2011 we set about finding a solution – our Trials Acceleration programme. We've invested £8 million in it so far, because we know it works.

What’s a clinical trial?

A clinical trial is a scientific study that compares the best current drugs that patients take, against those that might be better. Trials look for new treatment options or try and improve existing treatments: it's clinical trials that ultimately allow breakthrough drugs to be used in patients.

Research to find a new treatment begins at what we call the ‘basic research phase’. The research then moves through several stages over many years, until it (hopefully) ends with doctors giving that treatment to patients. We call it the ‘translational pipeline’.

We fund research at every stage in this pipeline, but we identified a bottleneck around early phase and phase 3 clinical trials, because trials at this stage are especially hard to set up and conduct. This bottleneck is the problem that TAP is solving.

What is TAP?

TAP uses a hub and spoke model to set up clinical trials more efficiently: a central hub at the University of Birmingham coordinates 13 trial centres at hospitals around the UK. Because of this geographical spread, it means 20 million people in the UK could have access to the very latest promising blood cancer treatments, if they needed it.
The central hub handles all of the bureaucracy involved with clinical trials, meaning researchers and trial centres are free to do what they do best: coming up with new treatment ideas and supporting patients through the clinical trial.

So far, 16 new clinical trials have either been opened or approved thanks to TAP - and that figure's growing all the time. 

TAP is an example of how we work collaboratively with other organisations to achieve the best outcomes for blood cancer patients: it draws together hospitals, the third sector and pharmaceutical companies, and works within the NHS Cancer Clinical Research Network. Pharmaceutical companies have generously supported us by providing £90 million of drugs to use in TAP trials - because they know that clinical trials happening faster brings benefits for them as well.

TAP's impact

Now researchers are getting the support they need to make their trials happen. TAP has revolutionised how potentially life-saving new treatments are tested:

  • it's fast-tracked the journey from the lab to the patient: some clinical trials could take up to ten years to run; now the average is just two years
  • the cost of a patient taking part in a trial has halved
  • it recruits a wider range of people to clinical trials, more quickly: this means trials can open around the country at the same time and more people can get access to the very latest treatments, nearer to their home. 

TAP is bringing hope to patients, where before there was none.​

The way it works been recognised as ‘bang on’ by National Cancer Director Sean Duffy and has attracted the attention of the government and umbrella research organisations. It’s a model that’ll work for all diseases, not just blood cancers: it could truly revolutionise all clinical trials in the UK.