Health experts have expressed fears about the impact that stricter Covid restrictions in England could have on cancer patients, as alarming new figures reveal the number of clinical trial participants has fallen sharply by 60% during the pandemic.
Nearly 40,000 cancer patients in England have been “denied” the chance to participate in life-saving trials in the first year of the coronavirus crisis, according to a report by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), who said Covid-19 had exacerbated long-standing problems with trial funding, regulation and access.
Figures obtained from the National Institute for Health Research by the ICR show the number of patients recruited for cancer clinical trials in England fell to 27,734 in 2020-2021, down 59% from an average of 67,057 over the previous three years. The number of patients recruited for the trials decreased for almost all of the cancer types analyzed.
Health experts said the relentless impact of Covid on the ability of doctors and scientists to conduct clinical trials was preventing thousands of cancer patients from accessing the latest treatment options and delaying drug development for point.
Nick James, Professor of Prostate and Bladder Cancer Research at ICR, said: “Clinical trials are the best way to turn advances in science into benefits for patients. But recruitment for trials fell during the pandemic, slowing the pipeline of new treatments and depriving people with cancer of access to potentially life-saving drugs.