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Cancer charity seeks urgent resumption of clinical trials

Medical research charity says pause in trials has had a ‘catastrophic and heartbreaking impact’

Cancer Research UK is urging the Scottish government and health service providers to restart clinical trials put on hold as a result of coronavirus.

The call comes as a report from the Scottish parliament’s cross-party group on cancer, found that clinical trials in Scotland have been “badly affected” by Covid-19 with an “almost complete suspension in recruitment to clinical trials and trial treatment”.

Data cited in the report shows that the number of patients entering UK clinical trials in April 2020 has dropped by 95 per cent since April 2019, leading to vital cancer research being delayed.

Cancer Research UK is now calling for the trials to restart as quickly as possible.

“For those living with a cancer diagnosis now, the pause to trials has had a catastrophic and heartbreaking impact by removing access to final treatment options,” said Marion O’Neill, the charity’s head of external affairs in Scotland.

“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 Scottish government and health boards, together with NHS Research Scotland, needs to move fast to get existing cancer clinical trials that provide a lifeline to patients and their families restarted.”

The news comes at a troubling time for the cancer charity, with the Association of Medical Research Charities predicting a £310 million shortfall in overall funding in the next year. Cancer Research UK estimates it could be forced to cut £150m a year from its research funding as a result of the pandemic.

The AMRC and its member organisations, including CRUK, is calling on the government to commit to a Life Sciences Partnership Fund, a co-investment scheme that provides a level of match funding for future charity research over the next three years.