Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-87)|
WEDNESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2001
80. So how has the MRC role in clinical trials,
carrying them out, changed, because of this new Research Institute;
do you get more money in, or less?
(Professor Sir George Radda) I am pretty sure that
it is going to be more money in there; we have already committed
funds, as I say, to trials that in the past we have not funded,
through the CRC mechanism, and that is going to be just a simple
transfer of funds.
81. But there are no figures on that yet, it
is too early, is it?
(Professor Sir George Radda) I am taking it to my
February Council for a figure; in principle, we have agreed how
we are going to do it. I have got to go to Council to say how
much can be put into it, because it is a considerable departure
for the MRC actually just to hand over the money to another organisation
and say, "you fund these trials, and we are part of it."
The big trials, of course, will be largely funded by MRC, because,
traditionally, that has been the group who funded long and large
phase 3 trials, and that will be probably, largely, MRC funds,
or as in the past we will be involving the other funders to say,
`do you want to be party to this particular, large clinical trial?'
So the whole thing has been streamlined, with much simpler entry,
and hopefully much faster decisions, and much more sensible co-operation
between the different funders. So I think that, for example, was
achieved in a matter of months, since we started the secretariat.
They have moved very fast on this; since 1 April to now, there
have been a number of developments of this kind.
82. Perhaps you could send us the figures, when
you get them from the MRC?
(Professor Sir George Radda) Yes. It will not be before
the February Council, when we are looking at our whole budget
and trying to decide on our priorities.
83. Do any other Members want to ask a question;
because this is a very important initiative, I think, for cancer?
(Professor Sir George Radda) The only other thing
I should add perhaps is that, because we were forming the NCRI,
or at least were at a well-advanced stage of discussions, that
interested the world at large sufficiently, we had an extremely
useful meeting with NCI Directors. Ten of them came over for two
days, for our 15 March meeting of CRFF, at Leeds Castle. We presented
them with the plans for NCRI, the membership, how we were going,
and the kind of scientific and research strategy that we had in
mind, and they presented their strategy, and a number of things
have arisen out of that, of co-operation and interaction between
NCI and us. The Administrative Director of NCRI, Dr Liam O'Toole,
has been over at least twice now, since he was appointed a few
months ago, discussing a number of aspects which we are going
to work on together.
84. Do you think the profile of the organisation
is as big as the NCI in the States yet; you laugh, but that was
(Professor Sir George Radda) The profile is not as
big as NCI, but I think the concept and the excitement of doing
something that nobody else has done has given it a tremendous
boost. We have taken the charities and Government Departments
from all the four countries, and MRC, and put them together into
an organisation where they said, "we both have to move towards
each other, we have to give up certain things, and we are going
to work together."
Dr Turner: Obviously, it pays to listen to this
85. Before I say thank you, could I just ask
you, in the spirit of Christmas, looking down the line a year
ahead, in terms of what the National Cancer Plan asks for, saving
lives, better treatments, and so on, what do you say to the British
people, at this minute, in terms of your particular ambitions
and contributions that have been started, and what is going to
happen in a year?
(Professor Sir George Radda) I do not know whether
the point has been made about the National Cancer Research Network
and the Trials Network, which, of course, will now be much easier,
not only because of the infrastructure put in by the Department
of Health, England, but, of course, we are talking to the Scottish
Department and Wales as well, they will be part of that.
86. What is your ambition for a year's time?
(Professor Sir George Radda) They say they are going
to double the number of patients that they can recruit to the
trials over the next 3 years, that is the goal, and I think we
will be able to move very fast in developing new drugs, and, therefore,
obviously, saving lives much more quickly than we had been able
to before. But also we will be able to raise the profile of cancer
research and have a much more effective research body in this
country, from the basic to the clinical, through this organisation.
(Professor Richards) I am confident that we are already
saving lives, the mortality from cancer is falling, falling particularly
in lung cancer, where large numbers of men have given up smoking,
but we need to do more. It is particularly also falling in breast
cancer, where the mortality has fallen by about 20 per cent in
the last ten years. I am also confident that survival rates will
improve for those who have got cancer, they are improving anyway;
what we have got to do is make sure that that process is accelerated,
and I am confident that with the Plan that we have in progress
at the moment that acceleration will occur. I think we have also
got to ensure that the experience of care, the quality of life
for patients, is improved, again, I think, by improving the co-ordination
of care across Networks, by making sure we have got the multi-disciplinary
teams in place; with the specialist nurses in place in those teams,
we will improve patients' experience of care, and, what is more,
we will be able to demonstrate that. Because another baseline
measure that I did not mention is that we have got a National
Cancer Patient Survey, and we will be able to repeat that, in
due course, to make sure that we are improving patients' experience
of care. And so I am confident on both of those.
87. Thank you very much. And Sir John?
(Professor Sir John Pattison) I think it coincides
very much with Sir George, in a way, on the research side. I hope,
in a year's time, we will be able to present you with some indicators
that we are moving in the right direction, in terms of having
created a more co-ordinated and streamlined cancer research effort
in this country.
Chairman: I am sure we will be watching, and
the cancer community out there will be watching, they are very
inventive and interested in what has happened. But thank you very
much for coming along today, and it has been a positive message,
with lots more to do, your enthusiasm is very welcome. And I am
sure I speak on behalf of the Committee when I say thank you very
much for everything you have told us, and you will see the minutes,
and we hope to see you again some time in the future, perhaps
in a year's time, or so. Thank you very, very much.