Wednesday 04 Dec 2013
BBC Radio 5 Live has been given first-hand access to staff and patients at the world's largest, early-phase cancer clinical trials unit based at The Christie cancer centre in Manchester, for a two-part documentary to be broadcast on Sunday 7 and Sunday 21 August.
Produced by Blakeway North, Cancer Trials – Behind The Scenes At The Christie hears from the doctors and medical teams about balancing the demands of scientific research with the individual care of the patients, along with their personal admiration for the altruism of those who volunteer. The programme also hears from patients about their own hopes and their pride in making a contribution to scientific research.
The Christie has led the way in terms of pioneering treatments and trials in the UK for many years, and in early 2011 a new £35m building was opened to house the largest phase one trials unit, which deals with the very earliest trials in the life of a new drug or treatment.
Cancer Trials finds out why patients, who are often in the advanced stages of their illness, opt to be part of these trials. It looks at what's involved for the patient and the medical staff, and how cancer treatment is improving thanks to those who choose to take part.
Professor John Radford, Consultant at The Christie, commented: "The Christie has been at the forefront of cancer research for more than 100 years, a tradition that we are tremendously proud of. Our commitment to clinical trials has led to many advances in cancer research; the life-saving breast cancer drug Tamoxifen, which was first trialled at The Christie more than 40 years ago, is just one of them.
"Although we have made great progress in clinical research, with cancer survival rates improving over recent decades, we still have a way to go. But with world-leading experts, strong partnerships with scientists, and our patients' continuing support we will make further advances and save more lives."
Commenting on the decision to give 5 Live behind-the-scenes access to The Christie, Head of Communications, Alicia Custis said: "We are now running the largest early phase trials unit in the world and are one of only a few centres across the globe doing this kind of experimental cancer research.
"In total we have around 200 trials going on at any one time, and it's through these trials that new cancer treatments can be developed which go on to save lives. We therefore wanted to promote the importance of clinical research and the great work that is taking place at The Christie. This is thanks not just to our expert research teams, but also the patients going on these trials. They are helping to save many thousands of lives in the future – as well as hopefully their own."
In addition to following patients through their treatments, Geoff Bird, the producer and narrator, speaks to the unit's doctors about the advancements in cancer treatments thanks to the pioneering research developed through the use of clinical trials, along with the sweeping variations of prognoses and available treatments for different cancer types.
Geoff commented: "Making these programmes and meeting the staff and the patients has proved a real revelation. Growing up in the North West I was well aware of the Christie, and first entered the place with some trepidation. To discover the level of optimism and humanity that fills the place, and the extent of the exciting work being done in the trials unit, has been genuinely inspiring."
Cancer Trials is one of several new programmes created for Radio 5 Live by independent producers from across the BBC North region as part of the BBC North Creative Kicker Fund.
On commissioning Cancer Trials – Behind The Scenes At The Christie, 5 Live Deputy Controller, Jonathan Wall, said: "Every one of our listeners has either been affected or knows someone who has been affected by cancer. We were delighted when the hospital's staff and patients agreed to speak to 5 Live and to allow us to make this insightful documentary."
Part one of the documentary will be broadcast on Sunday 7 August from 8pm, with the second part following two weeks later on Sunday 21 August at 8pm.