The future of cancer research and medicines
The panel addressed the challenges of cancer research
Owen Smith was joined on the panel by Dr Allison Jeynes-Ellis, Medical and Innovation Director, ABPI; James Peach, Director of Stratified Medicines, Cancer Research UK; Kate Law Director of Clinical Research, Cancer Research UK; and Mike Birtwistle, Head of MHP Health, representing the Rarer Cancers Foundation.
The panel spoke about the challenges and recent developments regarding cancer research. This was followed by questions and discussion from the audience.
During this session, attendees heard that the UK is still one of the best places in the world to develop cancer treatments, but there are emerging challenges, such as falling productivity, increasing costs, competition from abroad, and a bureaucratic regulatory landscape.
Delegates also heard that cancer treatments are, currently, not targeted to individuals and so only 30% actually work, meaning costs are high. To address this patients need to be treated as individuals and given more targeted treatments.
Cancer Research UK is pioneering a stratified medicine research project in partnership with the NHS, industry and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. Stratified medicines target cancer more effectively by understanding the biological profile of an individual patient’s cancer.
Currently, Herceptin is one of the most targeted treatments but it is still only 50% effective. Using the results from this project in combination with the collection of genetic information about individual patients, will enable a better understanding of which treatments are most effective with which genes.
As we come to learn more about the biology and genetics of cancer, it is possible that ‘common’ cancers will actually be stratified into distinct groups themselves.
What needs to happen next?
The collection and sharing of data within the NHS can be improved to better inform our understanding of which treatments are effective for which patients.
We need to better understand diagnostics to ensure cancer patients get the right treatment at the right time.
Providing there is a planned approach to data collection, the Cancer Drug Fund will provide a good opportunity to establish an evidence base for the demand for and the effectiveness of treatments. This is especially the case for very rare cancers, where treatments may be used in a ‘near-label’ setting.
Learning from the Cancer Drug Fund needs to inform the implementation of Value-Based Pricing.
Research activity is currently not something which is valued by commissioners. As the responsibility for commissioning is handed to GPs, they will need to be better informed about the value to patients of research and research active hospitals.