A decade of ECMC milestones

Celebrating the pivotal work of the Experimental Cancer Medicines Centres (ECMC) network in the UK. 

Celebrating the pivotal work of the Experimental Cancer Medicines Centres (ECMC) network in the UK 

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Experimental Cancer Medicines Centres (ECMC) network.

The importance of early phase clinical trial research cannot be underestimated in oncology, since the discovery, development and testing of new cancer treatments is pivotal to improving outcomes for people with cancer. The introduction of immunotherapy and targeted treatments has changed the landscape of oncology clinical practice, offering new hope to many people with cancer and their families.

From laboratory to clinical settings

Phase 1 clinical trials represent the first stage in moving novel trials from laboratory to clinical settings. In oncology, this means that the drugs are given to people with metastatic cancer to test the safety profile, including side-effects, and the potential benefits are unknown.

Given the clinical expertise required for this, patients in the UK are treated in clinical research facilities (CRF) that are accredited to participate in phase 1 trials.

Oncology research nurses working in phase 1 trials require specific training to address the challenges and complexity of such treatments, including uncertainty during treatment administration and the high risk of adverse reactions, such as anaphylaxis.

However, national standardisation of training and competencies for nurses is important to ensure consistent processes are maintained across UK CRFs.

Rigorous procedures

Patient observations, investigations and clinical procedures are rigorous to ensure patient safety and collect required research data, such as blood samples for pharmacokinetics (PK). Consequently, patients on phase 1 trials are often in hospital for longer periods of time for PK sampling and observations during and following administration of phase 1 drugs.

While the practical roles of clinical research nurses are changing, good communication skills are essential to ensure open and honest discussions of complex information, including the aims and uncertainty of novel agents, with patients and their families prior to informed consent and during subsequent treatment.

Given the specialised nature of phase 1 trials, close working between experimental medicine and oncology is crucial to increase understanding and enhance trial recruitment, and nurses are well placed to facilitate this process. 

Carole Farrell is consultant editor of Cancer Nursing Practice

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