Thousands denied cancer aid due to decline in clinical trials during pandemic

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Some of the country’s leading health experts warned yesterday in a report that “ferocious bureaucracy” resulted in the number of patients entering trials “falling off a cliff” after Covid hit. In total, the number of patients recruited on to trials for cancer in England fell to 27,734 in 2020/21 down from an average of 67,057 over the three previous years.

It means the number of people dying is likely to be rising, though latest figures are still being collated.

The report found the number of patients recruited fell in almost every category of cancer analysed.

Some cancer trials were stopped altogether due to the Covid spread, while patients for others dropped off by up to 90 percent.

Three eminent cancer professors, all from The Institute of Cancer Research, yesterday told how the latest treatments are being denied to patients because of a lack of investment and referrals to trials ‑ while more restrictions could worsen the outlook, despite deaths from cancer far surpassing those caused by Covid.

The academics also revealed that a huge backlog, in both diagnoses and referrals, has built up ‑ with an “avalanche of Covid patients” resulting in the patients referred for cancer trials not taking priority.

Professor Nick James, leader in the Stampede prostate cancer trial, said: “Clinical trials are the single best way to turn advances in science into patient benefits.

“It’s clear that bureaucracy and regulatory barriers for clinical trials often do more harm than good, hindering our progress in developing the next game-changing cancer treatments.”

His colleague, Professor Christina Yap, said: “There is no shortage of patients who want to take part in clinical trials, but they are not often aware of trials that could benefit them. Information about trials is uncoordinated, difficult to understand and not always up to date.”

A third expert, Professor Udai Banerji, added: “The pandemic has caused us to pause and identify areas we can do better. It’s time to make up for lost time.”

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