Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Cancer Research hope to bring cutting edge treatment to Gibraltar patients

Cancer Research UK - For Gibraltar Branch contact Telephone Myra Zayas - 79408
Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading charity in this field, will explore ways of working with the Gibraltar Health Authority so that Gibraltarian patients can benefit locally from British-run clinical trials of the latest cancer drugs on offer.

Although discussions are still at a very early stage, the ultimate aim is to provide access to cutting edge treatment while at the same time minimising the need for patients to travel to UK hospitals.

To achieve this, Cancer Research UK would pay for local hospital staff to train in its UK research centres and learn skills that they could then apply here.

The initiative was unveiled following a meeting yesterday between Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Professor Alex Markham, Ernest Britto, the Minister for Health, and Dr David McCutcheon, chief executive of the GHA.

Prof Markham praised Gibraltar’s “colossal” contribution to Cancer Research UK’s fundraising activities and said he wanted to make sure that local cancer sufferers benefited directly from what the charity could offer.

“One of the most practical ways we do things to help people on the medical side is by the training we provide for clinicians,” Prof Markham told the Chronicle.

“So we’re hoping to identify a few of the junior clinicians here who will spend some of their time coming over to the UK at our expense to train in Cancer Research UK centres.

There’s no reason why a patient in Gibraltar who’s unfortunate enough to contract breast cancer shouldn’t become part of a trial that’s running in the rest of the UK.

There’s no reason why a patient in Gibraltar with any form of malignant disease shouldn’t be joining in and benefiting from participation in clinical trials.”

At the moment, around 12% of all cancer sufferers in the UK – most of them younger patients - are taking part in clinical trials.

This represents a four-fold increase since 2002 and comes on the back of a concerted campaign by the National Cancer Research Institute, of which Prof Markham is currently chairman. The aim is now to increase that percentage to around 25% of all cancer patients in the UK, and to include more Gibraltarians in the process.

The GHA’s Dr McCutcheon explained that the initiative offers potential for patients in Gibraltar to benefit from the type of advanced treatment they might otherwise only receive by travelling to leading specialist hospitals.

The idea is to generate the necessary skills locally so that some – though not all - of the treatment can be carried out here. In the process, Gibraltar would be participating in trials and research that could potentially yield wider benefits for cancer patients in the UK and beyond.
Following on from yesterday’s meeting, the GHA will now draw up a series of firm proposals to submit to the charity and its trustees.

“We need to generate a relationship and understanding, an overall strategy, and then work forward from there,” Dr McCutcheon said.

“Remember that when we talk about cancer care, we’re talking about teams of professionals working together and we can’t just simply do it with part of the team.

So we’d have to work out, from a logistics point of view, how our group here can be part of the overall team.

We’ll have to explore the details of this but the will is clearly there to make this happen.

“There’s fantastic scope and I’m very optimistic.

Gibraltar’s “mind-blowing contribution” to Cancer Research UK

The main reason why Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, was on the Rock yesterday was to pay tribute to the charity’s local fundraisers, and the community as whole.

Cancer Research UK raises around £350 million annually – the equivalent of about £1 million a day – and although Gibraltar’s contribution is but a drop in that ocean of money, it represents a hefty amount in per capita terms.

In the 40 years or so that the local branch has been active, it has raised some £750,000 for Cancer Research UK.

“Gibraltar’s contribution is colossal because this is a very small community,” Prof Markham said.

“Gibraltar is the size of a small British town, and we just simply don’t have individual fund-raising groups from many small towns that raise that kind of money, even over longer periods.”

“It’s just mind-blowing,” he added.

The Cancer Research UK chief executive presented Myra Zayas, secretary of the Cancer Research UK Gibraltar Branch, with a certificate thanking the group for its commitment and work over the past years.

Another certificate was presented to Mr Britto, who himself drew attention to the outstanding work carried out by the charity’s local representatives. The minister noted that Gibraltar had long been involved in the charity’s fundraising activities and that this contribution had always been appreciated in the UK.

But he added that yesterday’s meeting would hopefully mark the beginning of a new dimension to the Rock’s relationship with Cancer Research UK, one that could ultimately generate practical benefits for local patients.

“I think what has happened today is probably a bit of a breakthrough,” Mr Britto said. “This is the first tangible sign of that appreciation, and very welcome it is.”

Early detection key to Cancer battle

Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, brought positive news yesterday from the front line in the battle against this disease.

Advances in research mean that 45% of all cancers can now be cured, and prospects for the future are even more promising.

“I will be disappointed if we had not cured 65% of cancers in 10 years time,” he said, adding that even this was a conservative estimate.

But for all the advances in medical research, he stressed that the patient had a crucial role to play in the equation.

Above all else, Prof Markham hammered home the point that early detection dramatically increases a person’s chances of beating cancer.

“One of the things that, without question, happens in Britain is that people go to the doctor with more advanced diseases. Anywhere else in Europe, people will feel a lump and go to the doctor immediately.

They will feel off colour and go immediately, or lose weight for no apparent reason and go to the doctor immediately.

And so the message in the UK is, go to the doctor.

Don’t feel you’re being a nuisance, be a nuisance because it could save your life. The sooner we get a patient with cancer, the earlier we get to see them, the better
their chances of being cured are.”

Related Links:

Cancer Research Gibraltar announce Membership drive


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