Pioneering trial allows cancer patients to be treated nearer to where they live

A cancer patient has spoken of her delight at a pioneering clinical trial which allows her to take part closer to home.

Jackie Harrison, a retired nurse from Parbold, is currently a subject of research looking at the effectiveness of a new drug designed for patients with early stage breast cancer.

Jackie Harrison, one of 10 cancer patients taking part in unique trials at the Wigan unit

Jackie Harrison, one of 10 cancer patients taking part in unique trials at the Wigan unit

Thanks to a new collaboration between The Christie and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL), Jackie is able to participate in the trial at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary – her local hospital which is only a short journey away from her home.

Jackie said: “I had experience of going to The Christie for radiotherapy and the standard of care I experienced there was outstanding. But, having recently finished a draining course of chemotherapy, the regular return journeys to Manchester during what felt like the hottest summer ever (2018) were pretty arduous for me.

“So it was massively beneficial for me to know that I could participate in this new trial at my local hospital in Wigan. I signed-up to making the visit every two weeks and that was nothing to me.”

The “outreach” research trial is the first of its kind in Greater Manchester and is part of a strategy to increase opportunities for patients to participate in, and benefit from clinical research, in line with the government initiative “Moving healthcare closer to home”.

The Wigan cancer care unit

The Wigan cancer care unit

The Christie and WWL have developed the new way of working and set up the trial so that it can be run simultaneously at both the Wigan site and The Christie’s main site in Manchester.

This has been achieved in collaboration with the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), Clinical Research Network (CRN) Greater Manchester. The study is also running at multiple sites in the UK.

Jackie spent 31 years working as a nurse, finishing her career commissioning health services in Lancashire before her retirement this year. She is married to Simon, 52, an NHS physiotherapist, and is mum to 26-year-old Georgina, a psychological well-being practitioner with the NHS, and twins Elizabeth and Chloe, 22, who are both students at the University of Salford.

The 55-year-old’s medical battle began when she was diagnosed with cancer in one breast in December 2017 following a routine mammogram.

Having shown no physical symptoms, the news naturally came as a devastating shock, but Jackie is extremely grateful for what she describes as the “platinum standard care” she has since received, both at ‘The Christie at Wigan’ chemotherapy treatment centre and The Christie’s main site in Manchester.

Following mastectomy surgery, the removal of all her lymph nodes and tissue from her armpit, Jackie started a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy when she was asked if she would like to take part in the trial.

Jackie is among 10 patients taking part in Greater Manchester and chose to participate in the study, which involves taking the trial drug twice a day for two years, for both personal and altruistic reasons. Her health will be monitored closely from start to finish for 10 years by the research team at Wigan.

She said: “On a personal level, there was an opportunity for me to have a treatment that is not commonly available and which might have potential benefits for me. It means I also receive very thorough and regular monitoring, all under the care of the same team who I’ve grown close to, and I’m very grateful for that.

“But the other reason, which was just as compelling, was that I felt I wanted to give something back. I had incredible support, platinum-standard treatment, and I was thankful to people who had been part in clinical trials in the past.

“I was able to benefit from today’s treatments because of them which was a real driving reason – and still is – why I wanted to be part of clinical research.”

Dr Elena Takeuchi, principal investigator for the trial at WWL, said: “We are extremely grateful to Jackie and all of the research participants at our Trust. It is thanks to patients like Jackie that we are able to conduct vital clinical trials which allow the NHS to continue to provide improved treatments and outcomes for patients.

“Jackie’s story shows the real value of bringing cancer healthcare closer to patients, which is something that WWL is committed to providing through our close ties with The Christie.”