Innovation is more than just an experiment

I have written previously about innovation in medicine and in particular the Saatchi bill. I have sat in the House of Lords to show my support for this bill and through this I was invited to talk to an absolutely amazing team at the University of Manchester Gynaecological Oncology lab, based at St Mary’s Hospital.

Just ten days ago I was talking to Dr Ian Hampson is a ‘reader in viral oncology’ at Manchester University and
head of the University of Manchester Gynaecological Oncology lab. A ‘reader’ in academic terms means someone who is of the same rank as a professor and who has been recognised for their outstanding international research.

Ian and his team were amazing to listen to and they were not only knowledgeable but extremely passionate about viral oncology. I could have spoken to Ian for hours about the work that he does and the various research in to the different types of virus’s that have been linked to a variety of cancer. Obviously I asked questions about leukaemia too still on the elusive hunt for an explanation for why Elizabeth was diagnosed with this dreadful disease.

So I am sure you are wondering what the visit to the lab had to do with the Saatchi bill. The Saatchi Bill is all about allowing innovation in medicine in a safe way.

Let me pose a question to you

Your child has been diagnosed with a tumor

You have been told that there will be a month wait for surgery

You have been told that there is a drug that is used for a different disease that looks like it only takes a few weeks to work so you could try it whilst you wait for surgery and it might mean less intrusive surgery or in fact no surgery at all.  There are no side effects from this drug.

Would you let the doctor give your child this drug? Would you let them innovate?

At the moment they are not able to do this but if the Saatchi bill is passed doctors can take advantage of this window of opportunity. Whilst you wait to follow the standard protocol you could take part in what is called a window trial. You could try this drug that is safe and used for treatment of another disease to see if it can help your child.

Now what if I tell you that Dr Ian Hampson has a drug that is currently being used for the treatment of HIV that has proven results in fighting (and winning) the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is the main cause of cervical cancer.
Taking an already approved drug and applying it elsewhere – that’s innovation.

It is too soon to say if Ian’s treatment will be a complete alternative to surgery but I have seen the results so far. His application, an HIV drug that has already been trialled and tested, was around 90 per cent effective and a 100 per cent safe. (Ian believes that the unsuccessful cases just needed more treatment).

Phase 1 trials are there to test the safety of the treatment. Phase 2/3 are to test whether it is effective. The surprising result of the Phase 1 trial in Kanya was that Ian proved the treatment also worked as you saw in the results. Ian will need to go through a Phase 3 trial which can take up to 12 years and millions of pounds before it can be used. If it becomes law the Saatchi Bill could enable a patient to use the treatment in a window trial.

The Saatchi Bill and Ian

Q: But how does all this fit in with the Saatchi Bill? Isn’t the Bill really only there to support doctors and their patients who have tried everything and who are dying? A:  Of course, patients with no options left are likely to be keen to get their doctors to innovate. The Bill is designed for patients – to empower them to say to their doctor: have you tried everything? Is there something out there that hasn’t been fully tested that might work? The Saatchi Bill will let you try it on me – with no risk to you.

But the Bill is relevant to ALL patients who want innovation. The Bill is designed to speed up the search for new treatments – not just for those who are dying.

In Ian’s case, the Bill would let doctors use his treatment – because we know it is safe.  It’s been tested already. There is peer-reviewed evidence that backs this up from the Kenyan Phase 1 Trial.

The Saatchi Bill is going to be in the House of Lords again on Monday 24th February and the consultation of the bill will open. They need to know the public are behind this bill. Please come back on Monday to use the widget below or use the one in my sidebar to respond to this government consultation and have your say.

Without innovation Elizabeth would not have a cure for her leukaemia unfortunately not everyone is so lucky but given the chance they could be. This bill could be the start of giving them that chance.