A specialised clinical trials unit of East Kent Hospitals has been working closely with patients to identify new ways of treating blood and lymphatic cancers.
The unit’s contribution to global research along with patients’ engagement and clinical trial participation has led to International recognition for the unit’s commitment to the development of innovative drugs and treatments in this field.
Lavinia Davey, Team Leader said: “We’re proud to be at the cutting edge of research that is making a real difference to patients’ lives and also making the most of the resources that we have in the NHS go further.”
While there is clearly a commitment to research in terms of advancing knowledge, for the research team their most important value is to provide the best care to their patients. Clinical trials provide the team the opportunity to access the best treatments available for their patients.
Lavinia added: “Our recruitment successes have been made easier by having a large patient population in east Kent. We have a fantastic group of patients.”
The unit recruits about 100 new patients a year into clinical trials and they have in excess of 700 patients in follow-up. These are patients who have completed their cancer treatments but continue to be reviewed.
The haemato-oncology team considers which patients might be eligible to take part in clinical trials, depending on the specific trial eligibility criteria, disease characteristics, and the suitability of the patient.
“When we offer patients treatment within a clinical trial, we have to ensure that the patient is fully informed about the trial, including information not only about the benefits but any potential risks or side effects,” said Lavinia.
She added: It’s a personalised process, and we want the patient to be in the position where they have a clear understanding of what is entailed knowing that they can ask questions at any time in order to facilitate them making an informed decision in regard to participation.”
“Some of our patients have incurable cancers,” she said. “But even so many continue to experience sustained and durable remissions with novel treatments, allowing the patients to look to the future, while enjoying a good quality of life.”
Lavinia describes their relationship with the patients as one of the most valued parts of their job.
She said: “While we act as the patients’ advocate, we carry out trial-related clinical care, provide continuity of care, collect research data, as well as providing emotional support by talking things through and sometimes simply by holding the patient’s hand. The team feel that the care they provide and the ability to increase treatment options by offering the latest trials means that the patients had confidence in them.”
Lavinia added: “Our work is heavily dependent upon the support of other departments within East Kent Hospitals such as the chemotherapy units, pharmacy, laboratory medicine and radiology, to name but a few. It is only through a Trust-wide collaborative approach to running clinical trials, and colleagues’ recognition of the importance and benefits from a research active organisation that we are able to improve patients’ treatments and outcomes.
“This has been fundamental to our unit’s success in delivering the best available therapeutic options for our patients.”