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Taking new treatments to patients in clinical trials

Clinical trials are the final, crucial step in discovering new cancer treatments and establishing them as part of patient care. They are at the heart of advances in modern medicine, providing solid evidence about whether new treatments will benefit patients and be sufficiently safe, and are used to decide which approaches to cancer treatment or diagnosis should be made available on the NHS.

A nurse and a patient at The Royal Marsden Hospital

At The Institute of Cancer Research, our Division of Clinical Studies works closely with our hospital partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to conduct clinical research into a wide range of cancer treatments, including targeted cancer drugs, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The ICR and The Royal Marsden boast one of the world’s leading centres for phase I trials in cancer – our Drug Development Unit, which treats around 300 patients each year. Patients are referred to the unit from all over the UK, and are increasingly treated based on the molecular make-up of their tumours. By bringing together preclinical drug discovery, early proof-of-principle trials and tumour-specific evaluation of novel agents, our researchers seek to bring the most promising cancer treatments to patients as quickly as possible.

We also house the Cancer Research UK-funded Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit, which brings experts including statisticians, trial managers and IT specialists together with leading clinicians to design, initiate, conduct and analyse clinical trials. Its multidisciplinary set-up allows it to develop clinical trial protocols for targeted drugs and technologies across multiple tumour types, in both adults and children.

One of the ICR’s recent success stories is abiraterone, a type of hormone therapy which has been approved for use by the NHS for men with advanced prostate cancer. The male hormone, testosterone, can help prostate cancer cells grow, so hormonal treatments are used to try to slow down this growth. Abiraterone works by preventing the body from producing testosterone, slowing the growth of prostate tumours, and sometimes shrinks them.

Professor Johann de Bono, Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine at the ICR and also an honorary consultant at The Royal Marsden, said: “New drugs like abiraterone are transforming the prospects for men with advanced prostate cancer, thanks to the pioneering drug development and clinical trials research being carried out at the ICR and The Royal Marsden.

“Since abiraterone was approved by the NHS, men receiving the drug are surviving for much longer than they would have been expected to do even a decade ago, and further clinical trials may identifiy more patients who could benefit.”

For more information about trials being conducted at the ICR and Royal Marsden, please see our clinical trials page, or visit the Drug Development Unit or the Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit pages.

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