Healthy Living: At the cutting edge of medical research

Clinical trial patient John Hobson
Clinical trial patient John Hobson
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When great-grandfather John Hobson was offered the chance of taking part in a cutting-edge clinical trial to help treat his colon cancer, he didn’t hesitate for a moment.

John, aged 63, from Woodhouse in Sheffield, is such a big supporter of medical research that he is now taking part in his third trial in three years - and wants to encourage other people to sign up and help beat deadly diseases.

Today is International Clinical Trials Day, and a host of events are taking place to mark the occasion organised by Sheffield hospitals. Last year more than 12,000 patients took part in 725 clinical trials at the trust.

John, who works part-time for British Gas, said ‘every little bit has got to be done to help’ in order to improve cancer treatments.

“It’s going to take a lot of research and that’s why clinical trials are so important,” he said. “I’m a huge advocate of clinical trials.”

In 2008 John was diagnosed with colon cancer, and had to undergo an operation to remove part of the organ. The surgery went well, but he was given chemotherapy at Weston Park Hospital as doctors believed secondary cancers could have developed.

“At the start of 2011 I found out it had spread to my lungs. When my options were discussed I was asked if I would be interested in taking part in a clinical trial. It was made clear that if at any time I wanted to withdraw from the trial it would be OK.

“But for me it was simple. I was more than willing to take part in the trial because other people would benefit from it in the future, so there was never any other option in my eyes.”

John’s first clinical trial was called Focus 3, and was specifically for people with bowel cancer that had spread. The treatment involved a combination of three drugs.

His second trial - Pulmicc - started in January this year.

Katharine Williams, clinical trials nurse at Weston Park, said John is ‘doing really well’.

“When some of the lung is removed breathing can be more difficult because the remaining lung cannot take in as much air,” said Katharine.

“We’re looking at the impact on quality of life with the Pulmicc study and more research evidence is needed to show whether people having this surgery live longer than those who do not. We are comparing the results of patients who have these lung secondaries removed against those who don’t.”

The dad-of-three’s third trial was a genetics study, looking at whether inherited factors can increase the risk of colorectal cancer. John completed a family history questionnaire and gave a blood sample, while some tissue from his surgery was also sent for analysis.

Meanwhile former Sheffield Children’s Hospital patient Bronte Russell, aged 13, from Bradway, has put her name down to become one of the faces of a national research campaign being launched today, encouraging people to help the future of medical science.

The campaign, called It's OK To Ask, is run by the National Institute for Health Research. A survey carried out by the institute found more than one-third of respondents 'didn't feel well informed' about clinical research. Bronte has taken part in trials looking into children's bone growth, as a thank-you to doctors who dealt with complications after she had her tonsils and adenoids removed.

"Research is a fun and easy way to help others and without it doctors might not know what they do today," said Bronte.