Published: 10 June 2022
Experts at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) say that research time must be embedded within consultant job plans and clinical academic excellence must be valued and fairly rewarded if cancer research is to be sustained and strengthened in the UK.
In a comment piece published in The Lancet Oncology journal, experts at the NIHR (including a number of Clinical Research Network National Speciality Leads for cancer) welcomed the Government’s 10 year cancer plan consultation — but highlight a number of important steps to secure the future of high quality cancer research in the UK for the next decade.
Among the key points made are:
- Research time must be embedded within consultant job plans and there must be backfill for highly trained staff who lead research;
- Clinical academic excellence must be valued and fairly rewarded, otherwise clinicians will disengage;
- Screening, Prevention and Early Detection (SPED) research has the greatest potential to reduce our population’s cancer mortality - multi cancer early detection studies such as Galleri which trial the use of blood tests to detect cancer early are a good example of trials which are well suited to national clinical research networks but that require the expertise of cancer research clinicians to investigate how to bring them to clinical practice in the future;
- The UK’s research infrastructure is uniquely capable of rapidly recruiting large numbers of participants across different age groups, parts of the country and social backgrounds;
- We need to propagate the successes of the urgent public health COVID-19 studies and generate efficiencies in study setup and study design (eg, platform studies) if we are to become more cost-effective with our time and resources
Dr Richard Lee, National Specialty Lead for Cancer Screening, Prevention and Early Detection at the NIHR, and Respiratory Physician at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and ICR, London says: “The consultation is a valuable opportunity to recognise the important role that clinical research plays in driving innovative care, and to ensure appropriate research funding, infrastructure and policy exist at the very heart of everyday NHS care.
“We need the UK research community to advocate for ‘R&D’ resource at every level to support recovery from the pandemic, and provide the next generation of scientific discoveries for patients with cancer.
“This will help us to detect cancer earlier, when it is more likely to be curable, to treat cancer more effectively with novel treatments, and to ensure that NHS patients can continue to receive world-class care, when living with and beyond cancer.”
The NIHR portfolio contains more than 1300 cancer studies, with 800 actively recruiting. In 2019/20, the NIHR recruited almost 100,000 participants to take part in cancer research.