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Clinical trials and research crucial for cancer sector’s recovery

Despite the challenges of the current pandemic on income generation, clinical research and innovative patient support during and after cancer treatment will remain our top two priorities.

Weston Park Cancer Charity has reaffirmed its commitment to support clinical trials and research to aid the cancer sector’s Covid-19 recovery, after figures suggested significant falls in cancer referral numbers and diagnoses during the pandemic.

We are committed to helping improve outcomes for people living with cancer by supporting clinical trials in order to improve access to, and awareness of, treatments which could offer ‘a lifeline’ for people, particularly those living with incurable cancer.

Whilst cancer services have been maintained in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw throughout Covid-19, current estimates suggest that there were as many as 7,000 fewer cancer referrals and 500 fewer diagnoses in the region between March and December 2020.

As a result of the fall in referrals and diagnoses, it is anticipated that an increased number of cancers will also be diagnosed later.

This, according to Weston Park Cancer Charity Trustee, Professor Robert Coleman, Emeritus Professor of Medical Oncology, further underlines the need to provide increased access to new treatments or drugs, before they are more widely available on the NHS.

Prof Coleman said: “Despite the challenges of the current pandemic on income generation, clinical research and innovative patient support during and after cancer treatment will remain our top two priorities.

“The drop in cancer referrals and diagnoses during Covid-19 will inevitably lead to many cancers being diagnosed at a later stage, meaning that support for clinical trials and research is more important now than ever.

“Over the last decade, Weston Park Cancer Charity has invested more than £7.5 million into cancer research and was pivotal in the development of a purpose-built Cancer Clinical Trials Centre (CCTC) at Weston Park Cancer Centre which has brought new treatments to Sheffield.”

With the continued support of donors, the CCTC has now treated around 16,000 patients in more than 900 trials.

Prof Coleman added: “The best way of delivering research as a standard of care is through a dedicated centre like the CCTC, with the staff and facilities to support patients from deciding whether to take part in a clinical trial or not, through the delivery of the treatment and then follow up to closely monitor its effects and safety.

“The CCTC has helped us provide a lifeline for so many people and is a hub of excellence that people can visit in order to access the very best care and treatment.

“Many of the treatments tested in the clinical trials of the past are now part of current standard treatment, and opportunities for patients now are light years away from how they were a generation or two ago.

“Weston Park has been a major player in achieving that but needs your continued generous support to keep us as a leading centre for patients to access new cancer treatments both now and in the years to come.”

Alongside this, we have also allocated more than £1 million to 21 large-scale research projects in 2021, which includes more than £400,000 of funding for clinical trials alone.

Prof Coleman continued: “Research is essential to improve treatments for cancer and continue the steady improvements in outcomes achieved over the past 50 years.

“Despite the progress made, cancer remains the major cause of death in the UK. It is imperative that the momentum achieved in translating breakthroughs in our understanding of the biology of cancer and potential new treatment approaches into the clinic are not lost.”

We support large clinical research projects, particularly at Weston Park Cancer Centre, which has been a leading clinical research centre in the UK for more than 20 years. It is also one of just 18 Experimental Cancer Medical Centers in the UK.

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