Norfolk hospital is first to join new breast cancer trial


The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn is the first in Europe to sign up for a ground-breaking breast cancer trial, which aims to identify women at risk - Credit: QEH

A Norfolk hospital has become the first to sign up for a ground-breaking breast cancer trial.

Researchers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn are investigating whether cancer can be detected earlier if markers in the blood can be identified in women at a high risk of developing the condition.

It was the first of 21 hospitals to sign up for the Early Markers for Breast Cancer Detection study is funded by Cancer Research UK and the first to recruit patients to take part.

People at high risk often undergo a double mastectomy, so detecting the disease at an earlier stage could be a major step forward to eliminate the need to have surgery.

The QEH’s breast screening department and research team invited every woman who was eligible to join the trial when attending their check-up. So far 12 have been recruited.

While coronavirus has halted much research as hospitals focussed resources on tackling the virus, staff at the QEH say fighting Covid has brought them closer together, which has enabled them kick-start the new study.

Research nurse and principal investigator Hayley Webb, who is leading the work, said: “At the beginning, Covid overruled a lot of our lives and we had to adapt to what was the most important thing at the time, but by working as a team, we’ve managed really well.

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"We’re really supportive of one another, and if there is one positive outcome from Covid, it’s that it has brought us all together.”

Antonia Hardcastle, research manager at the hospital, said, “The team are brilliant, they’ve coped really well. We’ve really enjoyed the spirit of working together during Covid, so we’re now looking for new studies where everyone can continue this.”

Helen Macdonald, chief operating officer for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)’s Clinical Research Network Eastern said: “It is excellent to see that, despite the challenging odds, Hayley and the team have ensured that essential research can continue and patients are given the opportunity to take part in it."

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