Consultant Haematologist, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and Cancer Trials Ireland
Patients in Ireland with blood cancers have seen a marked improvement in their prognosis primarily due to enhanced access to targeted treatments. This improvement in mainly due to our increasing participation in crucial new clinical trials.
Clinical trials are about improving access for our patients to the newest most effective treatments as early as we can. It is well recognised that patients who participate in trials or are treated in a unit that participate in trials have better outcomes.
Since the first COVID-19 patients were identified in Ireland in early 2020, the provision of care to patients with blood cancers faced unprecedented difficulties, including how to continue to conduct clinical trials without compromising patient care. It also highlighted to the patient and their physician the importance of ensuring we have access to the safest targeted and least toxic therapy available.
Increased awareness of clinical trials
One of the few benefits of the pandemic is the increased awareness of the public to the importance of the application of science to drug development and the integral part clinical trials have in bringing new treatments to those who need them in a safe and timely manner.
In late 2020, a study by Cancer Trials Ireland revealed an increased public understanding of clinical trials, with one in two people willing to participate in a trial themselves. Despite this, we have seen a fall in the number of cancer patients recruited to clinical trials in Ireland since the start of the pandemic and this is a trend we wish to reverse in 2021.
We have seen a fall in the number of cancer patients recruited to clinical trials in Ireland since the start of the pandemic and this is a trend we wish to reverse in 2021.
Greater participation in trials
Since 2017, Cancer Trials Ireland have rolled out an annual campaign “Just Ask” to promote public awareness of clinical trials. I am delighted to say that for blood cancer patients we are now in a position to offer trials to increasing numbers of patients.
This year, we are opening important trials for AML, Myeloma, CLL, myeloproliferative disorders and low and high grade lymphomas. This is made possible by important collaborations that we have fostered with international collaborative groups such as the HOVON group and the German CLL Group, national collaborations with BCNI and important partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry.
We are constantly striving to encourage the opening of important trials across the full range of blood cancers, aiming to put Ireland at the forefront of clinical trials internationally, providing the state of the art treatment for our patients.