The vast majority of people in Ireland understand the importance of clinical trials and half would be open to participating in a trial themselves, new research by Cancer Trials Ireland has revealed.
Cancer trials can provide patients with free access to promising new treatments, which in some cases, can only be accessed through such a trial. These treatments have the potential to improve the quality of lives of patients and even extend their lives.
Over 15,000 people have participated in more than 350 cancer trials since the establishment of Cancer Trials Ireland in 1996.
According to these latest findings, 80% of people have an understanding of the importance of clinical trials, an increase of 7% since 2009, while 77% believe such trials to be a good idea.
Around 50% would be open to participating in a trial, with 36% stating that they would do so to contribute to the development of new treatments that could help other people.
"The environment that we are living in today, with unprecedented levels of media coverage on clinical trials worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has undoubtedly brought about a wider understanding of the process behind the development of new treatments and therapies.
"It is very encouraging for us to see a considerable increase in the number of people that would be open to taking part in trials since 2009. There is a clear appreciation for how this process allows us to develop new and innovative treatments that could go on to save lives and reduce the burden of cancer for future generations," commented Eibhlín Mulroe, CEO of Cancer Trials Ireland.
Meanwhile, according to clinical lead with Cancer Trials Ireland, Prof Ray McDermott, the importance of clinical trials "has never been clearer".
"For people living with cancer in Ireland, access to trials can offer the opportunity to access treatments when the standard treatments are not working," he noted.
The research found that 72% of people understood that trials provide patients with access to treatments that may not be available otherwise and 15% of people would participate in a trial to access such treatments.
"It is very heartening to see such an acute understanding of the purpose of clinical trials among the public, because they are hitting the nail on the head - the number one reason doctors open clinical trials is to access the newest treatments for their patients.
"The fact that 27% strongly agree with that, and 15% cite it as a reason for participating in a trial, shows people have a strong grasp of the facts," Prof McDermott said.
Cancer Trials Ireland is set to open a new clinical trial aimed at high-risk prostate cancer patients in January 2021.
Typically, high-risk prostate cancer is treated through a combination of treatments - hormone deprivation, radiotherapy and the option of surgery, chemotherapy, or both. This trial is designed to see if adding a new well-tolerated hormonal therapy can help standard therapy and prevent high risk localised disease from spreading to other parts of the body.
The trial will open in up to eight hospital sites nationwide, with a target of recruiting at least 80 patients. Around 3,300 men in Ireland are newly diagnosed with prostate cancer every year and it is hoped that this trial will lead to an improvement in outcomes in those affected.
Vance Harris was diagnosed with prostate cancer nine years ago and he has taken part in two cancer trials, which have prolonged his life.
"I have never felt like I am just a number. The staff, and care I have received, have been amazing. People who take part in trials are paving the way for new cancer treatments to become available in the future and I am incredibly grateful to be part of such a positive legacy," Mr Harris said.
Cancer Trials Ireland recently launched a petition calling on the Minister for Health and the Department of Health to expedite and enact all relevant legislation relating to the centralisation of research ethics.
"We are calling on the Minister to expedite relevant legislation and centralise ethical approval urgently, by establishing one harmonised, central location to manage the process.
"Since ethics reviews were introduced at the turn of the century, the number of research applications seeking review has grown and grown, while capacity to review them has not changed. If we can't put a definite timeline on how long the approval process takes, that impacts planning - and ultimately makes Ireland a less attractive location for research," Ms Mulroe pointed out.
To sign the petition, click here.
To find out more about Clinical Trials Ireland, including how to get involved in a trial, click here.
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