The last year (April 2010 to March 2011) was the most successful yet for the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Cancer Research Network (GMCCRN) and within Greater Manchester The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (PAT) has seen a remarkable improvement in its performance.
In the last two years PAT has seen a huge rise in the number of cancer patients it recruits to clinical research trials that are on the NIHR Portfolio.
In April 2008 to March 2009 the Trust recruited 88 patients into cancer trials. Over the same period two years later (April 2010 to March 2011), it had increased this number to 740.
This achievement has come about through a number of reasons as Steve Woby (pictured), R&D Manager at the Trust explained. He said: “Two years ago we felt that as a Trust our strategy for recruiting patients to clinical trials was wrong. For the majority of the year we had just one dedicated cancer research nurse to work across our four District General Hospital sites and with all our studies so it was impossible for the nurse to dedicate the necessary time to each study.
“We realised that we needed more nurses to support trials but the only way we could secure more Clinical Research Network funding was to show that we could improve our recruitment. So we decided to change our strategy to focus what resources we had on high recruiting studies to increase our overall recruitment and attract more investment from the Network.
“I’m pleased to say that it worked. Over the last two years we’ve easily achieved the Cancer Network’s aim of 10% of all our cancer patients into studies. This year it was about 40% of the approximately 1800 new cancer patients we saw.”
Because of this successful recruitment, the Trust was able to put together a number of successful business cases for Network funding for more research staff from Greater Manchester Comprehensive Local Research Network (GM CLRN) and GMCCRN.
Now, the Trust has 10 dedicated cancer research nurses working across its four hospital sites.
Steve said this investment in new staff has made a real difference to the studies the Trust can support. He added: “With the extra nurse support, we’ve been able to increase not just the number of studies we carry out but also the complexity of the studies.
“These extra nurses have also meant that we’ve been able to open six more haematology trials with a dedicated haematology research nurse based at our state-of-the-art haematology unit at the Royal Oldham Hospital.
“It has also allowed the Trust to plan to open another one of our hospitals – Rochdale Infirmary – to cancer patients and we’re now able to recruit patients at the site.”
It’s not just in haematology where the Trust has seen increases in recruitment; it has had a large increase in colorectal recruitment with 75 patients already recruited into studies in the first three months of this year.
As the largest Trust in Greater Manchester in terms of patient numbers, and one of the largest in the country, Pennine Acute Trust sees around 1800 new cancer patient a year so has the capacity to take on more research.
Steve added: “We’re always looking to take on more studies. We’ve recently been very successful in terms of setting up and recruiting to our first ever commercial portfolio cancer trial and this is an area we’re looking to do more in. We’d also like to see more trials for urology cancer treatments as we have a large population base (500-600 new patients a year) but there are few trials out there.”
“The research nurses are very much part of the multidisciplinary teams and work closely with their investigators and with each other to identify suitable patients, ensure they meet recruitment deadlines and identify areas for new research. It is their hard work and dedication that has made this happen.”
Steve added: “Looking at how we have started this year, I think we have a very good chance of recruiting close to 1000 cancer patients onto NIHR Portfolio trials. This would be a great achievement for the Trust as a whole.”
Prof Nigel Bundred, Clinical Lead for GMCCRN, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for all the staff involved in cancer research at Pennine Acute Trust. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to make such a turnaround in their performance in such a short space of time. Thanks to this, they are opening up cancer research to new areas which previously would not have access to studies.”