Date: 18 May 2017
The widow of a prostate cancer sufferer who was given 10 extra months of life by taking part in trials of a new drug has urged the public to participate in research in the NHS.
Sue Duncombe, of Childrey, Oxfordshire spoke ahead of Saturday’s (May 20) International Clinical Trials Day, a global day of celebration of the contribution of research to healthcare.
Her husband Philip was diagnosed aged 52 in 2005 and underwent surgery to remove the tumour from his prostate at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford.
However, after 12 months the cancer had spread and by autumn 2008 chemotherapy had stopped working, meaning no more suitable drugs were available through routine NHS care.
Philip was then placed on an NHS trial of prostate cancer drug Abiraterone in early 2009 which extended and improved his quality of life.
Within three weeks of starting the trial, he went from not being well enough to stay overnight with friends who lived nearby to researching flights for a trip to Cape Town, South Africa.
The couple, together for 15 years, were able to make the trip and also visit Greece during 2009. Philip died on Christmas Day 2009. He was 57.
In 2012 Abiraterone was made available for use in the NHS thanks to the trials that took place in the NHS (see notes to editors for details of the trial).
Sue, 59, said: “I felt proud that Philip had contributed to this, giving more men and their families more quality time together.
“The opportunity to take part in a clinical study gave us hope, at a time when we were at a low, as all licensed drugs to treat him had been exhausted, Philip’s quality of life was poor and the end of his life seemed to be close.
“The results both prolonged Philip’s life and had a positive result on his quality of life. This had a positive impact not just on Philip, but on me and our family and friends.”
The NHS supports research through asking patients if they wish to take part in trials and healthy people if they also wish to take part so results can be compared to those with a medical condition.
Patients are also encouraged to ask their doctor about research opportunities and view trials seeking volunteers at The UK Clinical Trials Gateway at www.ukctg.nihr.ac.uk.
Participating in health research helps develop new treatments, improve the NHS and save lives and NHS trusts involved in research have better outcomes for patients.
Sue said: “Only if people participate in clinical studies can improvements in treatments be developed, which can then be available to a wide population. The bonus for the individual is that it may improve outcomes for them.”
Prof Andrew Protheroe, Associate Professor of Uro-Oncology at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital, who treated Philip, said: “The benefit that Philip had with the trial he took part in was huge and I will always remember the dramatic improvement he had when he first started on the study enabling him to travel.
“Taking part in clinical trials is so important to improve the knowledge and treatments for patients with cancer. All of the treatments that we use today are here because of the patients that took part in clinical research.”
Sue also took part in a research study last year after suffering a pulmonary embolism, a blockage in the pulmonary artery, the blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs, in October 2015.
The blockage was diagnosed at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford after she went to her GP with shoulder ache and shortness of breath.
It was treated with medication and Sue participated in GARFIELD-VTE, a global study where she completed a questionnaire and spoke to a research nurse about her health.
As a further thank-you to research, Sue is to cycle 820 miles visiting 101 Cancer Research UK shops and three research centres in August (see notes to editors for fundraising link).
International Clinical Trials Day is held every 20 May to celebrate the anniversary of the first clinical trial by James Lind in 1747 into the causes of scurvy on board the HMS Salisbury.
Two further events will be held in Oxford in the coming month for the public to learn about research.
The NIHR Clinical Research Facility, which conducts research into mental health conditions including depression and dementia, will open its doors at Oxford Brookes University, Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, The Colonnade, Gipsy Lane, Headington on May 24 from 10am to 2pm.
The NIHR Clinical Research Network Thames Valley and South Midlands (CRN) will hold a drop-in event for the public to learn about research specialities including diabetes, dementia, heart disease and mental health at West Oxford Community Centre, Botley Road, Oxford on Tuesday, 13 June from midday to 4.30pm.