Why Research Matters
As the largest cancer centre in Europe, The Royal Marsden and its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR), together recruit more patients to clinical trials than any other similar hospital in the UK.
“Cancer is a complex disease with hundreds of variations and an ability to adapt and evolve, so it is essential that we continue to carry out the latest innovative research,” says Professor David Cunningham, The Royal Marsden’s Director of Clinical Research, Head of the Gastrointestinal Unit and a Consultant Medical Oncologist. “The Royal Marsden’s clinical trials lead to breakthroughs that translate into huge benefits for cancer patients everywhere.”
A radical shift
Some of the most transformative changes in recent years have come in lung cancer treatment.
For early-stage lung cancer, surgery can remove the tumour and offer the best hope for cure. But often, the disease shows no signs or symptoms until it has spread. In the past, this meant most patients had a poor prognosis, and treatments were mostly palliative.
However, as a result of research breakthroughs over the past 10 years, there has been a radical shift in the way patients with lung cancer are treated. There’s now a sense of optimism at The Royal Marsden about the future.
“We’ve completely changed the way we treat lung cancer,” says Professor Sanjay Popat, Consultant Medical Oncologist in the Lung Unit. “For some patients, we can now manage it as we would a chronic disease. Patients are surviving longer, and with a better quality of life.”
“We look at a sample of tumour cells to see which genetic mutations they have and which ones are likely to drive tumour growth, then we match them to a drug that targets this mutation.”
Another area in which The Royal Marsden has made major research breakthroughs is radiotherapy. The Trust has one of the UK’s largest radiotherapy departments, treating up to 5,000 patients a year using a range of techniques. Private patients continue to have radiotherapy treatment at our Chelsea and Sutton hospitals, but outpatient appointments can also take place at Cavendish Square.
According to Dr Alison Tree, Consultant Clinical Oncologist in the Urology Unit, the Trust’s research means patients benefit from more personalised treatment and a continued improvement in outcomes.
“Radiotherapy studies at The Royal Marsden have changed the way cancer patients are treated, not only here but also across the world,” she says.
“Developments in radiotherapy imaging allow us to target tumours with submillimetre precision. This means that fewer healthy cells are damaged, which means we can give higher doses, making treatment more effective and reducing side effects.”
For Professor Cunningham, The Royal Marsden’s research is vital for driving forward advances in cancer treatment and care. “As one of the leading cancer centres in the world, we pride ourselves on never standing still,” he says. “We always strive to do better – for patients, and for their families.