Cancer Research UK Edinburgh placed all but one of its cancer clinical research studies on hold during the pandemic, reports Professor Charlie Gourley, its clinical director. With the greenlight to now proceed with seven clinical trials, the ovarian cancer expert recently hit the fundraising circuit to raise awareness to the great needs for cancer research support. Due to COVID-19, the UK charity forecasts a massive £160 million (US$209 million) drop in income year over year leading to painful £44 million (US$57.5million) million in cuts in research funding. Unfortunately, this could be just the beginning, and the victims are cancer patients across the UK.
Although Kevan Christie writing for the Scotsman reports that the UK government has stepped in with £750 million in charitable support as a sort of stop-gap measure, Cancer Research UK as well as other charities aren’t eligible. The situation is dire. Cancer Research UK has been a force of good in Britain for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer and has contributed to survival rates double in the UK over the past four decades. The organization’s CEO, Michelle Mitchell, declared recently, “Medical research charities like Cancer Research UK are a vital pillar of the UK’s life sciences ecosystem.
The Clinical Research as a Care Option in Danger in the UK
As it turns out, the clinical trials that charities such as Cancer Research UK sponsor are truly a lifeline for many cancer patients across Britain. Gourley associates this as “part of our armory,” and “for some patients with ovarian cancer, it’s the last option for them.” As many advanced cancer drugs are now available only through research, the pandemic and the great economic demise thereafter has led to a worst case situation for many with cancer. These clinical trials in many cases could be the difference between life or death and now they are being taken away as COVID-19 trials and pandemic response takes precedent. In an unfortunate nationwide triage, those with cancer have to unfortunately lose their turn in most cases. “This has been incredibly hard for patients,” declares Gourley as quoted in The Scotsman.
But there is a Glimmer of Hope
Although with the worst of the pandemic seemingly behind the UK, cancer trials are starting back up, at least some of them. Although the reactivation is slow, at least it’s now starting but those patients that don’t respond to standard treatments are at significant risk. It is this class of patient for which Cancer Research UK can represent a true portal of home.
Cross Party Group Report on Cancer
The Scotsman also unfortunately reports that a recent report to the Cross Party Group on Cancer, part of the Scottish Parliament, disclosed a staggering 95 percent drop in new patients participating in clinical trails due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If this figure is accurate, and TrialSite doesn’t have a reason to believe that its not, the implications are devastating for many cancer patients.
The Numbers are High Up North
In Scotland, about 32,200 individuals are diagnosed with some form of cancer annually. Although thanks to a number of factors, the risk of cancer dropped in Scotland last year but that could very well change now. The push for every new and advanced treatment will continue, but with massive hits from COVID-19, the growing chasm in funding will require innovative, creative and out-of-the-box thinking perhaps across the entire UK health system. Those in the know, know some financing bridges must be built soon or all the gains made in extending survival and lives could be lost. This will undoubtedly require intensive public-private partnership so perhaps some of the old rules and boundaries need to be revisited.
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