Enabling advances in treatment through clinical trials and research

Enabling advances in treatment through clinical trials and research

At Weston Park Cancer Charity, we are proud to help provide access to the latest treatments by enabling the very latest in clinical trials and research.


Research conducted at Weston Park Cancer Centre right here in Sheffield is internationally renowned, and clinical trials carried out here have a potentially life-saving impact worldwide.


That includes work carried out at the Cancer Clinical Trials Centre (CCTC) and specialist treatment suite, which were built using charitable funds from Weston Park Cancer Charity, Westfield Health and Yorkshire Cancer Research.


Since it opened, with the support of donors the CCTC has now treated around 16,000 patients in more than 900 trials.


Our supporters enable us to fund more research nurses, data managers, laboratory support and pharmacy hours among so much else – all to further support our commitment to improve outcomes for people living with and beyond cancer.


But just what is a clinical trial, who can take part in them, and what impact do they have?


Sarah Danson, Consultant Oncologist at Weston Park Cancer Centre and Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Sheffield, explains more.


“A clinical trial is medical research involving people – whether that’s patients, carers or healthy volunteers,” said Sarah.


“We have interventional clinical trials in which we try new treatments in a monitored, safe way, and include three main phases.


“All phases are important, and we often ask for samples or extra scans so we can learn as much as possible about the new treatment as possible.”


As Sarah mentioned, clinical trials involve three main phases. These are:


Phase 1 – drugs are first being tested, the dose increased carefully, and the main aim is learning about possible side effects

Phase 2 – studying more about side effects and start to get an idea about how good the treatment is

Phase 3 – studying more about side effects and start to get an idea about how good the treatment is


However, every trial is different and has different ‘eligibility criteria’ which must be met.


Sarah said: “People can go on clinical trials for a variety of reasons – they might benefit by gaining an extra treatment option or earlier access to a form of treatment, or they could gather information to care for others.


“There is a strong association between survival and participation in interventional clinical studies for all cancer patients in research active hospitals – and this improvement predates and increases with the level and years of sustained participation.”


One individual who benefitted immeasurably from taking part in a clinical trial was John Price, from Sandygate in Sheffield.


John took part in the trial of a drug called Interferon after being faced with the devastating news that his cancer was terminal in 1998.


John refused to accept his diagnosis, and ultimately ended up participating in a clinical trial that has extended his life greatly; enabling him to see his sons through their education, qualify in their respected professions, get married and have children.


Read John’s story in full here.


When considering whether to participate in a clinical trial, however, Sarah advised that people need to know exactly what the trial will involve.


“This includes treatment, investigations and visits,” said Sarah.


“They also need to know why this would be a good option for them, as well as the alternatives. Some people know they want to take part, others need to think about it and discuss it with loved ones.


“And we’re always sure to put them in touch with a research nurse for any follow-up questions, too.”


Trials in Sheffield have huge impact on the wider research network – not just at home but nationally and internationally. Most trials are run nationally, and a significant number reach overseas, said Sarah.


“We are contributing to the assessment of new treatments in the UK and worldwide,” said Sarah.


“Trials have been led from Sheffield, some using Sheffield science.


“That includes the national National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)-funded DANTE clinical trial, which I am currently leading. It is looking at the best length of time for immunotherapy treatments in advanced melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.”


In addition, Weston Park Cancer Centre is also part of the NIHR Clinical Research Network and is an Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre. That means it is part of a national network of 18 centres, which allows better access for patients to Phase One and Phase Two clinical trials and further helps us contribute to research nationally.


Ground-breaking research which we enable makes a real difference for people – including mum-of-three Amanda, who says the hardest thing about having cancer was that her daughter wouldn’t kiss her for fear of catching the disease.


Amanda became among the first in the world to take part in a world-first in-human cancer study at Weston Park – read her story here.


If you have any questions or would like to know how you can help us enable the latest advances in cancer treatment, call 0114 553 3330.