More than 1,500 cancer patients across South Yorkshire every year are helping researchers from the University of Sheffield move a step closer to tackling cancer and its devastating effects by taking part in clinical trials.
Many of the courageous cancer patients have been among the first in the UK to trial revolutionary treatments for a variety of cancers, under the care of the Sheffield Experimental Cancer Medical Centre.
Sheffield ECMC is one of 18 ground breaking centres in the ECMC Network which push the boundaries of cancer care by delivering novel and highly personalised treatments, driving experimental medicine from the laboratory bench to a patient’s bedside.
Brian Hartley, 64, from Chesterfield was initially referred to Sheffield ECMC in 2014 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma – a type of cancer which often starts in the lungs and is linked to asbestos exposure.
“People think that you are brave for taking part in a clinical trial but in actual fact you are just clutching at straws at this stage,” he said.
“When my doctor offered me the chance to take part in the drug trial it was a no-brainer. When you have cancer you want to try anything which might help.”
Brian took part in a phase 1 trial of a new drug which is added to chemotherapy and has been visiting the hospital every three weeks.
“The doctors are really pleased with my progress and the tumour has shrunk so much that at the moment I am considered stable,” said Brian.
“The nurses and doctors are absolutely excellent – they all know me by name and have been so kind. They see so much of me they wanted to invite me to their Christmas dance!
“I would really encourage anyone in a similar position to consider taking part in a clinical trial as there may be something out there that is right for you.”
The Sheffield ECMC is funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research. Patients are seen in the Cancer Clinical Trials Centre and receive treatment on the Clinical Research Unit (supported by Westfield Health, Weston Park Cancer Charity and Yorkshire Cancer Research).
Sheffield ECMC is led by Sarah Danson, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Sheffield and Honorary Consultant in Medical Oncology at Weston Park Hospital.
“The Sheffield ECMC gives patients access to new drugs before they become available to everyone,” she said..
“Often early phase trials give an extra line of treatment for patients who have run out of standard treatment options but who remain keen to try other options.
“By taking part in clinical trials patients enable scientists and doctors to learn more and improve care. I was involved in the first work with the drug gefitinib which has revolutionised the treatment of a type of lung cancer and every new drug has the potential to change cancer care in the same way.”
Over the next five years the Sheffield ECMC aims to enhance areas of strength including bone oncology, thoracic malignancies and radiotherapy, and rare cancers. It will also develop further Sheffield-led trials though a new Translational Oncology Initiative to accelerate the pipeline of early phase trial activity.