Clatterbridge’s research trials teams rose to the challenge over the past 12 months to continue their groundbreaking work, despite Coronavirus threatening to derail it.

When the pandemic struck just over a year ago, recruitment to clinical trials was halted at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, in line with a NHS national directive to pause some non-urgent work.

Research trials restarted on 22nd May 2020, and the Research & Innovation Directorate quickly resumed, with hundreds more participants recruited during the following 12 months and a number of new trials beginning. It is particularly impressive as the clinical research team had to put in place new procedures and safeguards to keep patients and healthcare staff as safe as possible from COVID-19.

Since the research trials restarted, almost 1,000 new people have been recruited as participants. Eighty-five studies that had paused due to the pandemic later relaunched and a further 46 new studies opened.

As well as focusing on cancer research, Clatterbridge’s Research & Innovation Directorate also responded to Public Health England’s call for help with research into Coronavirus, including harnessing the centre’s expertise to support the SIREN study, which follows healthcare workers for at least a year to see the impact of COVID-19 antibodies on the spread of the disease.

The SIREN study had a benchmark target to sign up 10% of the workforce – 150 staff – but R&I set a more ambitious aim of 250, which was achieved.

As well as providing important findings to the study, SIREN kept our patients and staff safer by giving an extra layer of COVID-19 testing.

During the year, a number of the research teams also relocated to Clatterbridge’s new 11-storey hospital in central Liverpool. The research facilities are now in the heart of the city’s Knowledge Quarter and next to academic institutions which Clatterbridge partners with in research and clinical trials.

Dr Gillian Heap, Clatterbridge’s Director of Research and Innovation Operations, said: “The past year has been enormously challenging, but I am incredibly proud to say that our teams have really stepped up to the mark and have delivered a stellar performance.

“We have been continuing with our vital work to find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer and at the same time keeping people safe from COVID-19 during that research process.

“Moving a department to a new hospital, during a pandemic, while also continuing to undertake a wide range of clinical research trials, was hugely challenging. But we came through it and we successfully recruited many more patient participants to help us in our work.

“Some of the outstanding successes include the SIREN study, where we were able to provide a rapid response to the call from Public Health England for trusts to co-operate in this nationally important research.”