Study at Oxford Brookes aims to improve access for lung cancer patients to clinical trials

A patient and a nurse
A patient talks to a nurse. Photo:

A new study at Oxford Brookes University aims to break down barriers faced by lung cancer patients in accessing clinical trials and the innovative treatments they may offer.

The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has provided £147,000 in funding for the two-year study.

Statistics show that participation in lung cancer clinical trials had decreased by 38 per cent in 2020/21 when compared with 2017 to 2020. According to Cancer Research UK there are around 48,500 new lung cancer cases in the UK every year, and around 34,800 lung cancer deaths. 

Professor Catherine Henshall is the Chief Investigator on the project. Catherine Henshall is Professor of Nursing for the Oxford Institute of Applied Health Research (OxInAHR), Research Lead at the Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery at Oxford Brookes University, and Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professional Research Lead at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.  

Prof Henshall said: “Lung cancer doesn’t have high survival rates and we want to help patients to be able to make informed decisions about whether or not to access clinical trials. Lung cancer nurses are the professionals with a lot of patient-facing contact but they don’t necessarily always have access to information about the best ways to signpost lung cancer patients to relevant clinical trials opportunities, or how to talk to patients about the possibility of entering a clinical trial.”

The study will involve focus groups across NHS organisations in England and Scotland, talking to patients, relatives and health care professionals about the barriers and enablers to clinical trial entry.

Prof Henshall said: “We want to look at the barriers to taking part in trials and the opportunities for encouraging more patients to participate in them.  

“When someone gets a lung cancer diagnosis, there is a lot of information to take in and they may not have the headspace to think about clinical trials along with everything else they need to process. People may also face travel problems, especially if they live in a rural area, and they may not have access to a hospital that is conducting clinical trials close to where they live." 

The information collected in the initial phases of the study will then inform the development of a resource to help cancer nurses make lung cancer patients aware of the clinical trial opportunities that are available to them. 

The team is drafting an academic paper on what the study hopes to achieve, why historically participation in lung cancer clinical trials has been low and how this project hopes to improve nurses knowledge of, and patients' access to, these trials.

Prof Henshall said: “Once the nurses have had the opportunity to use the resource we’ll survey them to find out whether it has been helpful. We need to know if it is implementable and acceptable to nurses to use alongside their day to day clinical practice. 

“The aim is that once the new resource is rolled out nationally it will enable patients to have much better information about, and access to, new and innovative treatments from clinical trials that could ultimately save lives.”

Paula Chadwick, Chief Executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “We are delighted to fund this vital research project. The decline in participation in lung cancer clinical trials since the pandemic is highly concerning. Not only do clinical trials play a crucial part in giving patients and their families hope of more time together, they also help pave the way for further advances in the treatment of the disease.

“Lung cancer treatments have come a long way in recent years and this doesn’t happen without clinical trials and their participants. As the UK’s only charity solely dedicated to supporting everyone affected by lung cancer, we will continue to do everything we can to help the progression of treatments and keep more families together for longer.”