A cancer patient has told how she is pleased to be part of a pioneering clinical trial which allows participants to access research closer to home.
Jackie Harrison is taking part in a trial looking at the effectiveness of a new drug designed for patients with early stage breast cancer.
The retired nurse, who lives with her family in Parbold, is a patient at The Christie cancer unit at Wigan.
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.
The “outreach” research trial is the first of its kind in Greater Manchester. It 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 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 said: “I had experience of going to The Christie for radiotherapy and the standard of care I experienced 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.”
Jackie spent 31 years 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 Georgina, 26, 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 battle with cancer started when she was diagnosed with breast 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.
First of all, Jackie underwent mastectomy surgery at Wigan in January 2018. She also needed an axillary lymph node clearance which involved the removal of all the lymph nodes (which form part of the body’s immune system) and possible tumour-containing tissue from her armpit.
In February 2018 Jackie then started a course of chemotherapy at ‘The Christie at Wigan’, followed by radiotherapy treatment at The Christie’s Manchester site during summer 2018.
It was following radiotherapy that Jackie’s consultant asked if she would like to consider participating in a clinical trial relevant to her condition.
After speaking with the research team and being given a “wealth of information” about the trial drug and its potential side-effects, Jackie agreed to begin the process of taking part in the study, starting with a thorough screening process to prove her suitability.
She started on the two-year trial in August 2018. The drug is taken twice a day in tablet form for two years, with her health monitored closely from start to finish for 10 years by the research team at Wigan.
Jackie is among 10 patients taking part in Greater Manchester so far. She chose to participate in the study for both personal and altruistic reasons.
She said: “On a personal level, there was an opportunity for me to have a treatment that’s 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. That 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’s thanks to the altruism shown by 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.”