Cancer clinical trials units
Clinical trials units (CTUs) play a pivotal role in delivering UK research, from the design and delivery of trials, to analysis and publication of results. Units often choose to specialise in a particular phase of trial or a particular disease area, and become hubs of academic expertise.
In the early 2000s there was a push to increase clinical trial opportunities for cancer patients in the UK, and a corresponding need to determine capacity and build collaboration among CTUs working on cancer trials. Working closely with the National Cancer Research Network, an NCRI accreditation scheme for cancer CTUs was set up, assessing a range of competencies for trial design, delivery and analysis. Two rounds of accreditation were run, with nine units becoming NCRI accredited and working together successfully to support national trial development.
The introduction of the cross-disease UKCRC CTU registration process in 2007 built on this work in cancer, and NCRI-accredited units were also registered under that scheme. As well as engaging with UKCRC, the cancer CTUs continued to work together at NCRI-accredited CTU Heads meetings and CTU Operational Leads meetings, and to interact regularly with the NCRI Clinical Studies Groups (CSGs).
The collective academic expertise of CTUs has been a key contributor to the growth of clinical trial activity in cancer over the past decade, working hand in hand with clinical networks and CSGs. Many cancer CTUs also contribute to national initiatives that support researcher training, advancement of trials best practice, and development of trials in particular areas of focus, such as rare cancers or industry-academic collaborations.
The NCRI Cancer CTU Group
In 2014 NCRI has moved to a new model of joint working among cancer CTUs. In place of accreditation, an NCRI Cancer CTU Group has been established to bring together the field leaders, using simpler entry criteria that complement UKCRC registration. This ensures that the leading cancer CTUs continue to bring their influence to bear within the wider national cancer infrastructure, without duplicating the evaluations they undergo within UKCRC.
Membership of the group is based on the volume of multicentre, interventional cancer trial activity on the national portfolio and, following the 2014 application round, 15 CTUs will join the group as it starts its activities. The group members can be seen in the PDF below.