Tessa Jowell Sparks Debate on Cancer Treatments

When former cabinet minister Baroness Tessa Jowell stepped into the Houses of Commons in late January, she did so to speak on a topic close to her heart, a theme found so often throughout her political career.

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In May 2017, Jowell was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare brain cancer affecting under 3,000 people in England annually. Like other brain cancers, little is known about it. Just 2 per cent of UK cancer research funding is spent on tackling brain tumours, and over the past 50 years there have been no breakthrough advances in brain cancer treatments.

Fighting back

While many would have sat back and wallowed following a bleak diagnosis, Jowell stated earnestly that she is not afraid. Instead, she requested that more be done to help NHS cancer patients access cancer treatments quickly. She spoke with a wavering voice, requesting those present in the House of Lords to allow more cancer patients the chance to take part in adaptive clinical trials.

The benefits of adaptive trials

These trials, like the paid research studies performed at St Georges Hospital and London Bridge by http://www.trials4us.co.uk/ enable flexible, multi-branched studies. This allows researchers to offer different treatment types to patients depending on their reaction to each treatment. If a patient is given a drug that is not working for them, they can be switched to another method during the trial, increasing their chances of a positive outcome.

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Because of the multi-branched approach used during adaptive trials, they can be completed much faster than typical clinical trials. This is promising for scientists who currently run through a 10-to-12-year process to get a cancer drug from inception to licensing, providing the drug is suitable for the market. In 2014, Yong Zang and J. Jack Lee wrote a paper entitled Adaptive Clinical Trial Designs in Oncology, which stated that between 2003 and 2010, just 9 per cent of trial drugs and interventions for cancer were successfully approved and released to the public.

There are also added financial benefits of adaptive clinical trials. Testing multiple drugs at once requires less spending on equipment, labs and staff, freeing up money for developing new drugs. As Baroness Jowell finished her address, her former colleagues and the medical profession were given food for thought. What they intend to do with her efforts, however, remains to be seen.

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