The impact of research on patient care

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The NHS Cancer Plan (DoH, 2000a) highlights the importance of research for the detection and treatment of cancer. In particular it highlights the importance of research into the genetic and cellular changes that lead to an individual developing cancer. The Plan states (DoH, 2000a, p. 91):

10.26 The genetic makeup of an individual may determine how effective a particular medicine is and the risk of adverse side effects. Research in this area, known as pharmacogenetics, is accelerating as a result of the Human Genome Project. Genes affecting the metabolism of more than twenty drugs, including anti-cancer agents, have been identified.

10.27 In the future, successful chemotherapy is likely to become increasingly dependent on understanding an individual's genetic background. In partnership with other cancer research funders, we will promote the development of pharmacogenetic studies in the area of cancer chemotherapy.

As health-care professionals we must ensure that every patient has the opportunity to benefit from the latest research and, where appropriate, be offered the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial if it is considered appropriate for his or her individual circumstances. The NHS Cancer Plan (DoH, 2000a) states that a review undertaken by the Department of Health in 1999 considers support for research into cancer as a high priority. This has resulted in the establishment of the National Cancer Research Network (NCRN) in April 2001 (NCNR Newsletter, November 2001). The aim of the NCRN is to increase the activity and quality of cancer research in the UK. This has resulted in the establishment of research networks, which are linked closely with the 34 cancer networks. Over a 3-year period, which is by 2004, the NCRN is aiming to double the number of individual patients recruited into trials. Professor Selby (Director of NCRN), writing in the first issue of the NCRN Newsletter (November 2001), stated that cancer research would be strengthened by the creation of two additional groups: the National Translational Cancer Research Network (NTRAC) and the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI). He went on to explain that the NCRI represented the main funders of cancer research, and that NTRAC would be concentrating on the initial development of translational research (see Chapter 10).

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