Colorectal cancer research

I was recently asked to apply for the post of lead for colorectal cancer research in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) has recently created this post and is an organisation about which I knew very little. After some Internet searching and asking around I discovered that it was set up in 2005/6 in response to a number of concerns about the way in which health care research was being undertaken in England. These included, money for R&D in the NHS not being focused where it was needed and locked into historical allocations to Trusts. The NHS R&D programme did not appear to have sufficient capacity or flexibility to generate all the evidence needed to deliver high-quality health services.

Research was being eroded from health professionals’ contracts, and researchers were struggling with the increasing burden of regulation and bureaucracy and the NHS was not exploiting its full potential as a research platform to support the country’s international competitiveness. Number of the existing agencies such as the Cochrane Collaborative, Health Technology Assessment (HAT) programme, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD) and the Service Development Organisation (SDO) were incorporated into the NIHR and research funding and organization became more streamlined and focused. Since then the total number of patients taking part in clinical trials has tripled, rising from under one million to more than three million. In 2014, more than 630,000 people have taken part in studies hosted by the NIHR Clinical Research Network, a 7% increase on the previous year, and 100% of NHS Trusts are now involved in research and are running studies. In addition to investing in research,
the NIHR has responded rapidly to national research priorities such as the challenge of dementia, concerns over antimicrobial resistance and a number urgent but unfashionable needs such as pandemic flu, very rare diseases, long-term conditions in childhood, healthcare associated infections and obesity.

After a pleasant interview at Crawley Hospital I was pleased to learn that I had been appointed to the post. The focus will be to co-ordinate and increase the numbers of patients being offered entry into research trials for their colorectal cancer across the region. Oncologists have traditionally undertaken this but hopefully surgeons will become more engaged and patients will benefit from new and exciting trials looking at different surgical techniques and the timing of surgery following radio and chemotherapy. Watch this space!