Patient with nurse in clinic

Patients more likely to survive in research-active hospitals

Date: 20 October 2016

A study, supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN), has found that bowel cancer patients are more likely to survive in research-active hospitals.

Even patients who are not involved in the trials themselves benefit from being in hospitals where a large amount of clinical research is taking place.

Using data from the NIHR CRN, researchers Dr Amy Downing and Professor Eva Morris at the University of Leeds discovered that people are more likely to survive after operations in these types of hospitals and are more likely to still be alive five years afterwards. There was nearly a four per cent increase in the five-year survival rate for those treated in highly research-active hospitals.

Co-author of the study Professor Matt Seymour, NIHR CRN Cancer National Specialty Cluster Lead, said: “We have long known that clinical research is crucial for discovering better treatments to help future generations of patients, but this study tells us something new.

“It shows that, by getting involved in research trials, hospitals may 'up their game' and provide better care for all the patients they treat even in the short term, long before the results of those trials are known.”

For patients treated in hospitals where research participation was high for at least half of the eight years studied, the mortality rate (death rate) in the first 30 days after major surgery was five per cent, and 44.8 per cent of patients were still alive five years after their initial diagnosis.

By comparison, in hospitals which did not achieve high participation in any of the years studied, the rate of mortality after major surgery was 6.5 per cent, and only 41 per cent of patients survived five years or more.

Professor of Gastrointestinal Cancer Medicine at the University of Leeds Matt Seymour added: “The effects may seem small - just a few per cent - but for a cancer that affects over 40,000 people in the UK every year a few per cent means a lot of lives.”

The study, which is published today in Gut, an international journal in gastroenterology, looked at data from 209,968 patients diagnosed with bowel cancer in England between 2001 and 2008.

The hospitals treating these patients were then split according to the percentage of patients taking part in clinical trials; those with more than 16 per cent of bowel cancer patients involved in trials over the course of a year were classed as having high research levels that year.

Jonathan Sheffield, Chief Executive at the NIHR CRN, said: “These findings boost our belief that a research-active NHS can improve care and outcomes for all patients. Therefore, we must continue to support and encourage patients and frontline staff to fully embrace clinical research as integral part of the NHS.

“The fact that all NHS trusts in England are research-active is a massive step in the right direction.”

The majority of the hospitals conducting high levels of research were district general hospitals and the effects were not limited to cancer ‘centres of excellence’.

Many funders contributed to the research and registration effort including the National Institute for Health Research, Public Health England, Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council, Yorkshire Cancer Research, the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer and the European Cancer Concord.

  • Summary:
    A study, supported by the NIHR CRN, has found that bowel cancer patients are more likely to survive in research-active hospitals.
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