In a new report from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), data from cancer trials alongside assessments from clinicians and patients aims to provide guidance on how to improve services

The number of cancer patients entering clinical trials has fallen drastically during the pandemic, creating a barrier in accessing treatment options, and delaying the development of innovative drugs and technologies, according to Hospital Pharmacy Europe.

The ICR, London, is publishing a report containing data from cancer trials and the views of patients and clinicians on how to overcome challenges in making trials more widely available. Extending the availability and access to clinical trials for patients is of increasing need, in order to avoid missing important opportunities to drive improvements in treatment options.

The National Institute for Health Research has reported that the number of patients recruited onto clinical trials for cancer in England fell to 27,734 in 2020/21, down from an average of 67,057 over the previous three years. The number of patients recruited onto trials also fell for almost every type of cancer analysed.

A study of 12 leading clinical trial researchers from across the UK commissioned by health charity Picker highlighted that more needed to be done to widen access to clinical trials for cancer patients. This study was carried out between April to July 2020 and the main issues identified included that there is an administrative burden in setting up clinical trial designs, such as biomarker-driven studies for precision medicine. The NHS also does not have systems in place for the rapid genetic testing of patients to select them for precision medicine trials.

Professor Nick James, professor of prostate and bladder cancer research at The Institute of Cancer Research, London said: “Clinical trials are the single best way to turn advances in science into patient benefits. But trial recruitment has plummeted during the pandemic, slowing the pipeline of new treatments and robbing people with cancer access to potentially life-saving medicines.

“We need urgent investment in the COVID-19 recovery of clinical trials, and to get funding to those centres that at the moment are struggling to support clinical research.”