A 95% drop in new patients entering clinical trials has left people with cancer with fewer options for treatment, according to a report to the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Cancer.
Cancer Research UK is now urging Scotland’s health service providers and the Scottish Government to move swiftly to get existing clinical trials for cancer restarted as quickly as possible.
To ensure patients can participate in clinical trials safely, the charity says Scottish Government must ramp up Covid-19 testing so people with cancer can be treated in safe spaces where the risk of exposure to the virus is minimised.
As well as the pause to existing trials, Cancer Research UK has voiced concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on the future of cancer research. The charity announced last week it could be forced to cut £150m a year from its research funding as the pandemic decimates its income.
Cancer trials may not be given high enough priority
Marion O’Neill, Cancer Research UK’s head of external affairs in Scotland, said: “Cancer hasn’t stopped because of the pandemic and it’s essential that clinical trials are restarted urgently. The Scottish Government has acknowledged that restarting cancer care is a priority. This urgency must now be extended to clinical trials and research.
“For those living with a cancer diagnosis now, the pause to trials has had a catastrophic and heart-breaking impact by removing access to final treatment options. For those diagnosed with cancer in the future, clinical trials are key to helping us understand more about this devastating disease and improving the range of treatments available.
“The guidance that’s been developed by NHS Research Scotland on the restart of trials is welcome. But, as hospitals look to resume trials, we’re concerned that cancer trials may not be given high enough priority.”
The Cross Party Group on Cancer will discuss the findings of the report, which also scrutinises the impact of the pandemic on cancer diagnosis, treatment and care. Around 32,200 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in Scotland.