Dr Ross Jennens
I look after medical treatments for people who are diagnosed with cancer. I treat a number of different types of cancer and people that need medical therapies such as chemotherapy treatments or, for breast cancer, medication treatments like anti-hormone treatments.
When I started out, there were only a handful of different chemotherapy medications that were used but now there are literally hundreds of different types of treatments and every year new treatments are coming out. Targeted therapies, that are specifically against a particular protein or change within a patient's tumour, and some new immune therapies that are starting to come through.
The most exciting thing in oncology at the moment is some of the new immune therapies. Those initial trials have been done in patients with melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body. Those trials have shown that for a disease for which ten years ago we really had very little in the way of effective treatments, some of the patients are now having fantastic responses to immune therapies, and some of these patients are potentially being cured from melanoma that had already spread through their body.
The only way to know, "Is this medication actually better than our standard medication? Is it a safe medication? Are the side effects minimal or reasonable?" is to do a clinical trial and compare it with our standard treatment. If that trial shows that, "Yes. This treatment's better," then that will become the new standard therapy.
If we didn't have clinical trials, our treatments would be exactly the same as they were fifty years ago, and that was pretty dismal. Mortality rates from cancer were very high. Very few people were cured from cancer unless it was diagnosed early and they had it removed with an operation.
I always offer a clinical trial to a patient if there's a suitable trial available, either at my centre or one of the other centres that would be convenient to attend, because I think clinical trials provide patients with the best options.