By Helen Moore, Clinical Trials Manager and Trust Lead Research Nurse

You may not be aware of clinical research, but every one of us has benefitted from it at some point in our lives and it will shape the way all of us receive treatment in the future.

Every medication, surgical intervention, surgical appliance and internal medical device has been through the clinical trial phase before it is licenced for use. The antibiotics, pain killers, hay fever medication we take every day have all been tested, and it’s thanks to the patients who took part in these clinical trials many years ago that we are living for longer today.

Over 725,000 patients in the UK took part in over 5,800 National Institute for Health Research studies in 2017/2018, with more than 75,000 coming from the West Midlands, the highest number since records began.

Here at SaTH, more than 2,000 of our patients took part in over 110 national and international studies in 2017/18. In keeping with the rest of the NHS, approximately half of the studies our patients and the public took part in SaTH are what we call ‘non-interventional’. The aim of these studies is to learn more about the disease/condition in question. The studies usually have minimal involvement and ask simply for the ‘gifting’ of blood or saliva, or simply completion of a questionnaire.

An example of a non-interventional study is RAPPER, which is investigating if there are genetic variations that cause more severe side-effects from radiotherapy for some people. If we could do a simple blood test before radiotherapy, doctors could tailor the dose specifically to the patient.

Another example is the Parkinson’s Family Project which is looking for familial predispositions to Parkinsons. If we could diagnose Parkinson’s earlier and treat it with new drugs, patients with the disease may have a better quality of life and live longer.

The other studies are what we call ‘interventional’. These may be clinical trials (drug trials) or clinical device trials or different interventions to standard of care, such as mammograms.

We are currently running two large national cancer studies. One of which, STAMPEDE, looks at new treatments to improve survival rates of cancer, or increasing the chance of curing the disease. This study has been running for 12 years, and today, treatments trialled in the study are now standard of care. The study is now looking at whether an diabetic tablet, Metformin has an anti-cancer effect, as well as reducing the longer term side-effects of hormone medication these men have to take.

Another interesting study, ADD-ASPIRIN, looks simply at whether taking aspirin every day for 5 years after initial potentially curative cancer treatment can cure more patients and prevent the disease coming back. Aspirin is cheap and readily available, so wouldn’t it be fantastic if this drug could save lives?

The opportunities to benefit your own care and the care of future generations through clinical research are huge, and we know for a fact that patients who enter clinical trials do better than patients who don’t, even if they receive the standard treatment.

At SaTH, we’re running studies in almost every clinical area, including; Midwifery, Paediatrics, Cardiovascular, Renal, Dermatology, Elderly Care, Neurodegenerative disorders, Gastro-intestinal and Anaesthetics, and we need you! If you are interested in taking part in research, either as someone with a medical condition, or as a fit and healthy person, contact the clinical research department on / 01743 261000.

Clinical Research is here to stay so watch this space…