Memorandum submitted by the Society of
Academic and Research Surgery
The Society, which represents academic surgery,
has the view that notwithstanding some of the favourable recommendations
of the committee, that the situation with respect to cancer research
in the UK is worse than when the committee originally took evidence.
In terms of your particular questions:
(1) It is too early to comment on the success
of the NHS cancer plan with respect to research.
(2) There has been progress in the creation of
a National Cancer Research Institute and it is to be hoped that
with time this will become an important force. To date, however,
much of the activity has related to re-badging existing groups,
for instance the UKCCCR groups have been renamed NCRI groups.
More important is the relationship of these groups to the funding
bodies. We have certainly detected great willingness amongst the
cancer charities to sign up to a more seamless approach. However,
it is yet to be seen whether the MRC will actually similarly be
able to sign up to an integrated approach. There is considerable
doubt within the cancer research community about this. Certainly
in the past MRC has paid little heed to the priorities of the
UKCCCR groups or to studies originating from them. The Byzantine
structure of the MRC in the past has militated against funding
relevant cancer research in a timely fashion.
(3) It is incomprehensible to us how the situation
with respect to the GMC and Health and Social Care Act has been
allowed to occur. Whilst it is likely that Cancer Registries will
continue to exist we find that environment created by the above
and also the current approach of the Caldicott Guardians has rendered
even simple retrospective audit impossible, let alone substantive
cancer research based on retrospective data. It must be appreciated
that in many circumstances there is no other approach available.
In addition the hysteria created post-Alderhay has rendered the
enormous archive of pathological material in the UK unavailable
for most studies in cancer. It is hard to imagine a set of circumstances
that would be similarly devastating for clinical cancer research.
The above constraints must also be taken together with the enormous,
and sometime insurmountable, difficulties put in the way of workers
wishing to perform animal research. This has led to the UK becoming
a far less attractive location for any form of cancer research
than it has been in the past. Many medical scientists will choose
to perform such work overseas where the same constraints do not
(4) The new Cancer Research Networks are to be
welcomed and it may indeed improve recruitment to clinical trials.
It is too early to assess their success, but the potential is
Additionally, on behalf of our own Society,
we recommended to the Committee that more importance should be
given to surgical research. We were pleased that the Committee
also saw fit to support this recommendation. Regrettably we do
not believe that there has been any substantive improvement in
this area. Indeed, the constraints mentioned in 3 (above) make
the environment considerably worse.
Professor J N Primrose
Professor of Surgery
5 December 2001