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World Cancer Day aims to inspire action to ‘close the care gap’ with research continuing to play vital role

World Cancer Day aims to inspire action to ‘close the care gap’ with research continuing to play vital role

4th February 2022

The 22nd World Cancer Day will be aiming to ‘close the care gap’ amid strong ongoing Scottish research into this vital area despite the COVID-19 pandemic

On February 4, the annual awareness day will be launching the first year of a new campaign to better understand and recognise inequalities in cancer care around the globe.

An estimated two out of five people in Scotland develop cancer in their lifetime. Around half of Scottish people diagnosed with cancer will survive for more than 10 years – a figure that has doubled in the last 40 years.

Robust research remains vital to accelerating this positive progress despite pandemic difficulties. Scotland’s highly developed research infrastructure – including clinical research networksdata safe havens and accredited tissue biorepositories – continues to support the delivery of high-quality cancer research across Scotland.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on every area of health research, the Scottish cancer research community has pivoted to maintain as much progress in clinical research as possible, whilst protecting the safety of research participants and researchers.

A National Cancer Trials Resilience Group was set up in Scotland specifically in response to the pandemic. It monitors data to support recovery of the cancer clinical trials, identifies barriers and considers innovative approaches to building increased resilience across the portfolio of studies in Scotland.

Figures from NHS Research Scotland (NRS) show that cancer studies across Scotland held up well despite the pandemic. This year (October 2020 to September 2021) there were 467 cancer studies active during the year – 10 less than the previous year.

Professor David Cameron, NRS Cancer Research Champion and Professor of Oncology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The pandemic may have slowed the progress of cancer research in a minority of studies, but it has certainly not stood still, and Scotland’s phenomenal research expertise remains undimmed.

“Recruiting patients into cancer clinical studies has of course been challenging in recent times but the picture is improving. Our research community has also mobilised to join the national and global effort to combat COVID-19, inevitably creating resource difficulties, but it is clear that continued focus on vital cancer trials is a priority.

“Work by the Chief Scientist Office and NHS Research Scotland is helping to restore the diverse portfolio of health and social care studies that Scotland offered before the pandemic; and coupled with the National Cancer Trials Resilience group we are working to build stronger foundations for cancer studies both now and in the future.

“In line with the aims of today, we are also continuing to seek out ways to reduce inequities in access to cancer research opportunities in Scotland, so that any patient in Scotland affected by this life-changing disease can contribute to, and have the possibility of benefitting from, vital cancer research.”

World Cancer Day – led by the Union for International Cancer Control –marks an appropriate time to spotlight the dedicated efforts of the research community

Throughout the pandemic, research teams across the country have had to find new ways of working around COVID-19 restrictions, with virtual consultations, remote monitoring and closer collaboration with community healthcare providers becoming increasingly common.

Continuing to improve and accelerate treatments underpins the work of the NRS Cancer network and multiple clinical trials have remained open throughout the pandemic. NHS Grampian played a pivotal role in the PRIMETIME study, looking at radiotherapy for women with a very small risk of their breast cancer returning. Dr Ravi Sharma, consultant oncologist led the Grampian team with the highest number of participants in the UK, out of 65 hospitals, testament to the close collaboration of the multidisciplinary breast team (MDT), biorepository and pathology staff.

The University of Aberdeen, NHS Grampian and the NRS Biorepository are also currently running a pilot scheme led by principal investigators Professor Anne Kiltie and Mr George Ramsey to collect samples of faeces from bowel, prostate, or womb cancer patients to see if their intestinal bacteria can influence how well they respond to radiotherapy or surgery. 

Harmless bacteria living in the intestines have recently been shown to affect how well a patient responds to treatment for their cancer such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy – but little work has been done to establish how they affect surgical or radiotherapy treatments. 

The pilot project is now looking at the feasibility of recruiting patients to donate a faecal sample which will then be processed, frozen and linked to information on how well each patient coped with their cancer treatment.  It then plans to analyse DNA extracted from the bacteria and also the metabolites they release that may help improve outcomes following radiotherapy or surgery.

In Edinburgh, the KEYNOTE-564 trial has shown that immunotherapy with pembrolizumab can reduce the risk of renal cell carcinomas coming back after surgery and could lead to a new treatment option for kidney cancer patients.

In Glasgow, the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, Professor Sara Zanivan is leading a team investigating if an existing drug devimistat, which is currently being tested for treating other types of cancer, could also be used to treat thousands of women with breast cancer. The trial is using the drug as part of a completely new approach to treating triple negative breast cancer, a type of breast cancer which tends to be more aggressive and disproportionately affects younger women and black women.

Across Scotland, the STAMPEDE trial comparing hormone therapy alone with a combination of hormone therapy and one or more other treatments for prostate cancer. Some parts of the STAMPEDE trial have reported results and changed the way prostate cancer is treated, with more options for treatment when a man is first diagnosed with high-risk prostate cancer.

This is just a small snap shot of an extensive portfolio.  In addition to set-up and delivery of clinical trials, raising awareness of clinical research and trials that can be accessed is also a focus. In Inverness, a new Patient Trials Advocate position has been funded by the Make 2nds Count charity supporting metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients. It follows success of the role in Edinburgh where awareness is being raised amongst MBC patients of the benefits of clinical research, and the trials that they can access within the UK.

For more information on NRS Cancer, visit

To find active cancer clinical trials visit and search by condition, drug or location.  

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