North Devon: Supporting clinical trials to improve treatments
Last updated: 20/04/2012
What are clinical trials all about?
Any new treatment or way to prevent or detect cancer has to be thoroughly tested before it can be used by people with the disease. Clinical trials are used to find out whether new treatments or tests are safe, what their side effects are and whether they are better than the current approach. They also help refine and improve existing treatments.
The UK leads the world in the proportion of cancer patients recruited to clinical trials. Over 18 percent of cancer patients in the UK now take part in trials - that's better than anywhere else in the world.
Cancer Research UK supports almost 250 cancer trials, with over 30,000 volunteers taking part each year to help us develop new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
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How are clinical trials benefitting people in North Devon?
Clinical trials often need to recruit large numbers of people to ensure that the results are meaningful. This means they often ask people from all around the country and sometimes even from abroad to be involved.
There are two Cancer Research UK funded clinical trials currently recruiting volunteers from North Devon.
Women with breast cancer will usually have surgery to remove their tumour. After this, women who have a type of breast cancer called 'hormone receptor positive' will then receive hormone therapy for a number of years.
Female hormones, such as oestrogen, can fuel the growth of breast cancer, but these treatments can block the hormone from working. This can help to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back after treatment.
Drugs called aromatase inhibitors are a type of hormone therapy for women who have already gone through the menopause. In the POETIC trial, recruiting women from North Devon, doctors want to find out if giving women an aromatase inhibitor for two weeks before and after their surgery, as well as standard hormone therapy, helps reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back to a greater extent.
The researchers are also examining the cancer cells to see if there are any changes after a short course of the therapy. In the future, this may help doctors to work out which treatment is best for each individual woman - making sure each woman receives the treatment that is most likely to benefit her while reducing the risk of side effects.
A trial called RADICALS is also recruiting men from North Devon, this time to look at radiotherapy and hormone therapy after surgery for early prostate cancer.
Doctors usually use surgery to remove the prostate in men whose cancer they think is completely contained inside the prostate gland. They then do a blood test for a molecule called PSA to help tell them whether someone should need more treatment.
Sometimes, men may have radiotherapy alone or radiotherapy with hormone treatment after their surgery. This targets the male hormone, testosterone, which can fuel prostate cancer growth.
But doctors are not sure if all men should have radiotherapy after surgery or not. It is also not clear whether men who have radiotherapy will also benefit from hormone therapy and how long it should be given for.
All treatments have side effects so it is important that men don't have treatments they don't need. This study wants to find the answers to these questions and work out the best regimen of treatment for men with prostate cancer - giving them the best chance of beating the disease over the long term.
The impact that you can have
Our groundbreaking work in clinical trials has already led to advances in preventing, detecting and treating cancer that have saved many thousands of lives in the UK.
By helping us to support clinical trials that are recruiting people from North Devon you are helping to keep the UK at the forefront of clinical research and driving new treatments into the clinic to help more people beat cancer.
Donate now and you can help support: North Devon: Supporting clinical trials to improve treatments