University Hospital Limerick (UHL) is marking International Clinical Trials Day 2018 with an information event for members of the public and for healthcare professionals on the importance of cancer trials this Thursday May 17th.
UHL is one of 16 hospital-based cancer trials centres in Ireland and is the only one in the Mid-West region.
Members of the public are encouraged to visit an information stand at the Canteen in UHL on Thursday, May 17th, from 9am to 2pm.
The event is one of a number happening in cancer centres around the country in the coming days in partnership with Cancer Trials Ireland, which co-ordinates hundreds of cancer trials around Ireland every year. The 2018 International Clinical Trials Day takes place officially this year on May 20th.
International Clinical Trials Day celebrates the anniversary of the first clinical trial conducted by James Lind in 1747 into the causes of scurvy. The trial took place on board the HMS Salisbury and consisted of just 12 men, grouped into pairs and given a variety of dietary supplements from cider to oranges and lemons.
The trial only lasted six days but, within that time, there was a noticeable improvement in the group eating the fruit, providing Lind with the evidence required of the link between citrus fruits and scurvy.
Approximately 100 cancer trials are currently recruiting patients in 16 hospitals around Ireland. A further 50 trials are in the data collection and analysis stage. At any one time there could be in the region of 6,000 patients participating in these cancer trials. Around one in two of all clinical trials in Ireland are cancer trials.
At UHL there are currently just over 300 patients taking part in over 30 trials. These include trials for patients with a range of cancers, including lung, breast, multiple myeloma and bladder. It is planned that this will expand within the next year to include trials for bowel cancer and malignant melanoma.
One such trial currently underway in UHL is known as the MERU cancer trial, investigating the potential of Rova-T (rovalpituzumab tesirine) to treat small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) which accounts for 10-15% of lung cancers. This is a large international Phase III trial and will involve 740 patients around the world (Phase III trials compare the safety and effectiveness of the new treatment against the current standard treatment).
UHL is one of four Irish cancer centres joining 168 others around the world in this international trial. The lead investigator for Ireland is Dr Linda Coate, Consultant Oncologist, University Hospital Limerick, and Head of Cancer Trials Ireland’s lung cancer group
According to Dr Coate, the treatments available to date for this type of cancer (SCLC) are limited.
“Unlike other cancers, where progress has changed the face of the disease, the treatments available for this type of lung cancer have changed little in the past 30 years and the outcomes remain generally poor.
“Small cell lung cancer is very aggressive and although patients may experience an initial response to treatment, it is difficult to treat successfully using currently available treatments.
“There is a clear need therefore to continue to look for drugs that might provide hope for the future in this space,” Dr Coate said.
Maureen O’Grady, Clinical Nurse Manager, Clinical Trials Unit, Cancer Services, UHL, said patients taking part in trials did so not only in the hope of improving their own outcomes and quality of life but also because they recognised the importance of research in helping scientists better understand cancer – to help prevent it, to help detect it and to develop treatments.
Ms O’Grady said Herceptin, one of the most widely used chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer patients, was just one drug where clinical trials had involved patients in Limerick.
“New and more effective approaches cannot be developed without cancer trials,” said Ms O’Grady.
“All cancer treatments used today were once tested through a cancer trial. Cancer trials allow access to new drugs and treatments and help us increase our knowledge on the best way to deliver these treatments. By taking part in a cancer trial patients help to test new ways to detect and treat cancer,” she added.
The National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026 acknowledges that cancer trials should be a core activity of cancer centres and recommends that they be fully integrated into cancer care delivery. This will ensure cancer trials are central to the treatment options available to people with cancer.
The strategy includes a target to double the number of people with cancer who can access cancer drug trials, from the current 3% to 6% by 2020.