Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research
Issues raised during the discussion on 16 January.
The National Cancer Plan
Although the introduction of the Plan and its
direction are undoubtedly welcome it is largely concerned with
cancer care and services. Cancer research is ignored on the whole.
A National Cancer Act may well help focus the Government's mind
on research. During our evidence session we discussed the problem
of a lack of cancer clinicians. We talked about the problems at
the Beatson Institute and Oncology Centre, where they lost four
consultant oncologists in the space of four weeks, and we also
touched on the need for an adequate training scheme to generate
research oriented clinicians.
To achieve this would require a more flexible
approach from the Royal Colleges in their formal professional
training schemes, to recognise the importance of research training
and to allow time for it. Greater remuneration and protection
from the pressures of the routine NHS workload would also help.
If we are to seriously improve treatment standards and increase
cure rates we must overcome the difficulty of generating and retaining
research-active clinicians. Across the UK's medical schools one
in seven clinical chairs remain unfilled and this problem must
The National Cancer Plan is therefore a welcome
focus on the disease but a clearer, more research-led approach
must be taken if we are to impact on cancer survival rates in
National Cancer Research Institute
We welcomed the introduction of this virtual
institute and are very pleased with its progress to date. Its
prostate cancer initiative was funded mainly by Cancer Research
UK but did have major contributions from the MRC and Government.
All of the major funders are members and the
devolved governments and pharmaceutical companies are also beginning
to play an active role. The benefits of having a "bricks
and mortar" institute are unclear. We do not feel that it
makes much sense to house the NCRI in a physical centre when the
money can be better spent on research.
The NCRI has the framework to realise the possibility
of fast-tracking research findings into the health service. The
Department of Health should take note of this fast-tracking and
look to increase funding. We are very positive about the NCRI's
ability to bring the various funders together to contribute to
truly joint activities across the country.
National Cancer Research Networks
Although the National Cancer Research Networks
have not made much difference yet they have the potential to be
a major force for getting patients onto clinical trials and improving
survival rates. The target of doubling the number of patients
entering clinical trials is demanding and it will be a matter
of time before we can see if this is achievable or the funding
It is very encouraging to see the Department
of Health sharing some of the infrastructure costs of carrying
out clinical trials and we look forward to seeing the financial
burden on Cancer Research UK being ceased. As these centres establish
themselves we would look to the Government to increase their spend
three or fourfold within the next few years.
We know network systems work because we have
tested it in Wales. We have split the cost of setting up a Welsh
Cancer Trials Network equally with the Welsh Assembly. In Wales
the number of patients in clinical trials has doubled in three
years. The Welsh Assembly and our organisation have both agreed
to double again our funding of the network, as it has been so
successful. We look forward to the English networks replicating
Cancer Registries and Data Protection
The issue of cancer registration remains a major
concern. There is a strong case for legislation to make cancer
a statutorily reportable disease in the UK. This would remove
ambiguity about the legal status of cancer registration caused
by the professional guidance issued to all doctors by the General
Medical Council. Such legislation could be included in a National
The national cancer registration system is the
basis of many research projects that have had a direct impact
on patients. It provides invaluable information about cancer incidence,
survival and mortality derived from all patients diagnosed and
registered with cancer and should be protected.
For a detailed appraisal of cancer registration
and data protection we would refer the Committee to expert opinion
such as Professor Michel Coleman who is an adviser to your group.
Government matching cancer research spending £
We welcome your focus on Government spend on
cancer research and urge greater transparency with their accounting.
A way of ensuring clarity would be to have any
spend on cancer research channelled through a National Cancer
Act directly to the National Cancer Research Institute. The Government
should be looking at closer interactions with Cancer Research
UK, as we are experts in the cancer research field.
National Institute for Clinical Excellence
Although NICE has gone some way to clear the
backlog of cancer drugs and treatments they are still not performing
to our expectations or standards.
We have submitted evidence from Cancer Research
Campaign-funded oncologists to a review of NICE pointing out the
unacceptable amount of time taken to instigate and carry out investigations
into new drugs. We have also questioned the total lack of cancer
experts on NICE committees. We do not feel that their peer-review
process is anywhere near robust enough.
The Science and Technology Committee's original
report into cancer research was a welcome focus on the issues
and its recommendations were informed and productive. I hope this
update will be equally successful.
Professor Gordon Mcvie
The Cancer Research Campaign
31 January 2002