What are you most looking forward to in your new role as a Steering Group member for the Living With and Beyond Cancer James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership?
There is an enormous unmet need for patients with physical consequences of cancer treatment (CoT) which has not been adequately addressed to date.
Research for CoT has lagged decades behind the advances in cancer treatment which is pretty ironic as with the modern success of cancer treatments, more and more people are living with long term effects, few of which are ever properly addressed.
There are many easy gains to be made, and early discussions in the steering group show that the NCRI have brought together a visionary group of individuals.
It is really exciting to be part of a project which will authoritatively define research priorities. The UK already leads the world in recognising the scale of the patient need. This project should produce the incentives to make a phenomenal difference to cancer survivors, now that so many good treatments for cancer have been established.
What difference do you think the Living with and Beyond Cancer initiative will make to people affected by cancer and relevant professionals?
Simply enormous. First of all, it will hopefully allow patients to have their consequences of treatment (CoT) acknowledged when often they are ignored. It will also hopefully eventually allow patients to tolerate their cancer treatments better, improving outcomes in terms of survival and quality of life. After cancer treatments end, it will help to identify new interventions that will help maintain daily activities and well-being. It will also lead to huge financial savings for healthcare and patients, because it will lead to an end in unnecessary and unhelpful investigations and treatments for CoT.
What else do you do besides this role?
For the last 17 years, I have been pioneering, together with a multidisciplinary group of amazing colleagues, new approaches and treatments for gastrointestinal CoT. Much of what we have done has also had significant impact for patients with benign diseases.
As a full time NHS clinician running an oversubscribed and incredibly busy unique CoT practice we have managed to publish 150 papers and raise almost £5 million for our research. Very significant amounts of this funding has come from our grateful patients and their families, not all from established academic funding routes.
What do you perceive to be the biggest challenges in living with and beyond cancer research?
It is much sexier to talk about ‘curing cancer’ than side effects of treatment. Secondly, the revolution in treatment options for cancer has also largely bypassed non-oncologists who do not always fully understand the interventions which have been used. Thirdly, much cancer care is delivered in ‘stand-alone’ cancer centres where expert supportive care by other specialties is not always available.
Consequences of treatment (CoT) need to be considered routinely and systematically within a multidisciplinary framework. This requires us to provide care in a completely new way and break down specialty barriers. The history of oncology and indeed medicine is that revolutionary but correct ideas have been slow to be adopted. Improving CoT will need masses of education and many healthcare practitioners changing the way they think radically about the problems patients have.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
At the end of long and exhausting days, fighting for the things my patients need, there is nothing more wonderful than getting on my bike and pedalling 10+ miles home – including up and down a few hills – and then at the end of that seeing and laughing with my family I love – including our half-witted, loveable rogue puppy, Pickle
If you could choose one piece of art (film/play/book/music) that you love, what would it be?
Vladimir Nabokov was a very gifted if somewhat difficult individual! Each of his books is very special but my favourite is Pnin, a melancholy love story. But sometimes you need more than a book and one of my favourite albums of all time is Stornoway’s Bonxie. I often play it to my patients as I do their endoscopies!