The number of cancer patients in the UK participating in clinical studies has soared in the last decade from one in 26, to around one in six patients diagnosed, according to new figures presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool this week.
The figures, presented by the National Cancer Research Network (NCRN) represent a fourfold increase - reinforcing the UK's position as world-leader in the proportion of cancer patients recruited to clinical trials and research studies.
This exceeds that of any other European country or the USA. In America, fewer than 1 in 20 cancer patients participate in clinical trials.
The increase has been made possible by the establishment of the National Cancer Research Network.
The NCRN is one of eight Clinical Research Networks funded by the National Institute of Health Research in England. The Networks were set up to ensure that patients and healthcare professionals from all parts of the country can take part in research, by reducing the administrative red-tape associated with setting up clinical studies. They also provide researchers with expert support to make the study "work" in the NHS environment, and for patients.
The original aim of the NCRN was to double the number of cancer patients taking part in clinical studies in England within five years – a target that was actually reached in just three years*.
The NCRN has now supported over 800 cancer research studies, involving more than 250,000 volunteers. Every NHS hospital and cancer centre across the country is now actively participating in cancer research, which means that patients now have unprecedented access to clinical trials at their local hospitals.
Professor David Cameron, lead author on the study defining the figures on cancer research participation, and former Director of the NCRN, said: "With more patients in clinical trials than ever before, we can now look forward to reaping the benefits of new and exciting developments in diagnosing, preventing and treating cancer.
"Importantly, these figures demonstrate the huge enthusiasm and willingness of British people to participate in research that could potentially lead to life-saving new treatments in the future."
Dr Jonathan Sheffield, Chief Executive of the overall National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network said: "With average life expectancy increasing, the pressure on healthcare budgets will continue to grow. This means that clinical research is more important than ever as a means of understanding the most effective way of treating patients, and focusing our resources on the best possible care. The success of the National Cancer Research Network shows that we now have a highly effective model for involving patients in research that could benefit them now, and other NHS patients in the future."