Lung cancer patients given new hope thanks to research team

Michelle Stephens, Philomena Shooter, Vasanthi Vasudevan, Natalia Waddington, Oliver Brennan, Jo Helen Spickett, Greta Van Duyvenvoorde, Jo Howard.
Michelle Stephens, Philomena Shooter, Vasanthi Vasudevan, Natalia Waddington, Oliver Brennan, Jo Helen Spickett, Greta Van Duyvenvoorde, Jo Howard.

A research study with the potential to save the lives of lung cancer patients is being conducted at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Clinical Research Centre.

Members of staff at the research centre are keen to promote this pioneering study as it could mean fewer patients will develop lung cancer in the future.

The North West has the third highest rate in England for people developing lung cancer so the region could significantly benefit from the study.

A total of 105 patients are already signed up to the study including patients who attended hospital with symptoms such as a persistent cough, bloodstained sputum, shortness of breath and unexplained weight loss.

Led by the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Trust, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals is the only other Trust in the UK participating in this international study from the Roy Castle Cancer Foundation.

More than 44,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in England and more than 35,000 people die of it each year. The cost to the NHS is in the region of £2.5 billion.

Vasanthi Vasudevan, a research nurse for the Trust, said: “If you detect lung cancer at ‘stage one’, out of 100 people, 83 people will survive at least one year. At a later stage – ‘stage four’ - only 17 people out of 100 will survive at least one year.

“If the research can identify indicators that are present in potential patients, we will be able to conduct further research to develop preventive therapies and save lives in the future.

“The next step will be to identify people who are likely to develop cancer and take steps to prevent it.”

Mr Nidal Bittar, a cardiothoracic surgeon for the Trust, is the clinical lead for this study.

Philomena Shooter, a respiratory research nurse for the Trust, said: “Patients have been happy to participate in the study because they realise that early diagnosis is hugely important. They’re keen to help.”

The research centre team is also working on a study with a different group of lung patients.

Philomena said: “We’re asking people to give breath samples and we are looking for ‘biomarkers’ (a naturally occurring molecule, gene, or characteristic by which a particular disease can be identified).

“We’ll be looking for signs or risks of lung cancer. If it’s successful, diagnosis will be a lot easier. Hopefully, the machine we use to collect the breath samples will tell us if a person is at risk of developing lung cancer.”

Dr Amrithraj Bhatta, a respiratory consultant for the Trust, is the sub clinical lead for this study.

Philomena added: “This study could save lives and Blackpool is contributing in a big way.

“We encourage everyone to participate in our studies. We need normal samples as well. It doesn’t mean you have lung cancer if you are taking part in this trial.”

Michelle Stephens, Research and Development Manager, added: “Without our patients joining the trials that we run, we would not be in a position to help contribute to major breakthroughs of new diagnoses and treatments.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank those patients who have already joined these studies and if anyone is interested in joining these studies, please contact us.”

Anyone who wishes to find out more about being part of these studies can contact the Clinical Research Centre on 01253 951514 or email researchideas@bfwhospitals.nhs.uk.