Cancer research FAQs

Frequently asked questions

Cancer trials are run by a specialist team of research staff, including nurses, clinical trial practitioners, co-ordinators and managers. Our team runs clinical trials to help find new treatments for cancer, and to look after people taking part in these trials at Guy’s and St Thomas’. Here are answers to some of the most common queries about our cancer and haematology clinical trials:

  • Who will look after me?

    If you take part in a trial, we will work closely with you and your doctors throughout your clinical trial journey. You will have frequent appointments with us and we can phone you between visits to see how you are feeling. You may get to know some of the following staff:

    • Research nurses make sure that clinical research studies run smoothly and that you are kept safe and given all the information you need
    • Clinical trial practitioners and co-ordinators usually have a background in science or research - they divide their time between co-ordinating trials and clinical duties
    • The safety and support team works behind the scenes to protect your safety and well-being. 

    Which other staff are involved?

    As well as the research team, you may be looked after by other staff including

    • Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) 
    • Physiotherapists 
    • Dieticians
    • Speech and language therapists 
    • Occupational therapists 
    • Palliative care nurses.

     

  • What can I expect at a trial clinic appointment?

    Before your appointment, you will receive a letter with details of where the appointment is and when. You will have set appointment times for each of your clinic visits, but you may need extra appointments for various reasons. Before your visit, the research team may also ask you to attend other tests or procedures as part of trial requirements. Please check with your doctor whether you can eat before certain visits.

    When you arrive at the clinic, let the receptionist know that you have arrived for your appointment and show your appointment card or letter. Our receptionists are specially trained to work with people who are receiving cancer treatment. If you are feeling nervous, they will understand. They are there to welcome you and answer any questions you may have.

    If you are worried about coming in for your clinical trial appointment, phone your research team on the number provided on your patient information sheet or email the team and somone will be happy to talk through your concerns and can help you reschedule as required. 

  • Where do I go for my oncology trial clinic?

    When you start your trial, your research team will let you know where you need to go. Most appointments take place in oncology outpatients at Guy’s Hospital, on the ground floor of the Tabard Annexe. But occasionally they will take place at other outpatient clinics across Guy’s and St Thomas’ sites, so always check your letter for the exact location of your clinical appointment.

    Getting to the Tabard Annexe

    As you enter Guy's Hospital through the main entrance on Great Maze Pond, walk to the right, past the front desk. The entrance to Tabard Annexe is at the back of the lobby, also signposted Urgent Care Centre. Walk through the doors and turn right. Follow the corridor round until it brings you to the oncology outpatients department. Let someone at the reception desk know you have arrived and you will be called in for your appointment.

  • Where do I go for my haematology trial clinic?

    If you are seeing the haematology team, you will need to go to one of two outpatient departments - Haematology 1 or Haematology 2 - or to the Haemotology Day Unit. All three units are at Guy’s Hospital, in Southwark Wing.

    Haematology 1 is on the ground floor.
    Haematology 2 and the Haematology Day Unit are on the 4th floor.

    Getting to Southwark Wing

    As you enter Guy's Hospital through the main entrance on Great Maze Pond, walk to the left and follow the signs for Southwark Wing. Walk along the corridor, past the hospital shop and Southwark Wing is on your left. If you need to get to the 4th floor, you will find lifts here.

  • What treatment will I receive on my trial?

    On the trial, you may receive three kinds of treatment: trial drugs, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

    Trial drugs

    The trial treatment you receive may come in tablet form, or may be given via a drip or injection or a combination of both. Most of these treatments can be given to you as an outpatient, so that you can go home afterwards, though for some treatments you may need to stay in hospital.

    Chemotherapy

    If you are receiving chemotherapy as a day patient, you will attend the Chemotherapy Day Unit, which is on the 10th floor of Tower Wing at Guy’s Hospital. This is a highly specialised, state-of-the-art area with expertise in administering anti-cancer drug treatments, which include chemotherapy and targeted therapy.

    If you need to visit this unit, you may be there for some time. The unit can be very busy because of the number of patients being treated here. To keep patients safe, the unit uses portable equipment to deliver treatment in the most accurate way possible. The equipment can produce loud beeping sounds to tell staff when the treatment has finished or if there is a blockage on the drip. However, the unit has been designed with you in mind, with facilities such as a hot drinks dispenser and computers with internet access in the waiting area.

    Your chemotherapy nurse will be able to let you know how long your treatment will take. It’s a good idea to prepare for your visits by bringing things to do and snacks and drinks.

    Radiotherapy

    If you need to have radiotherapy as part of your trial, the trials team will explain everything you need to know about this when you are referred. Radiotherapy is offered at both Guy’s Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital.

  • What tests may I receive as part of the trial?

    Throughout the trial, you will undergo tests to ensure your safety and well-being, and also to check how your cancer is responding to the treatment. There is some information about the most common tests below.

    Some trials may require additional tests, such as urine samples, scans or biopsies (samples of tissue). If you need these extra tests, the research team will give you more information about these, and what is involved, when you start the trial.

    Other imaging, such as X-rays and ultrasounds, is usually carried out on the 2nd floor of Tower Wing at Guy's Hospital. If it is in another location, your team will let you know.

    Blood tests

    If you do take part in a trial, it is possible that you will have a number of blood tests. The team may need to test your blood regularly to make sure you are well enough to receive treatment and to monitor any potential side effects. Depending on the type of test you need, you may receive your results within just a few minutes, or it may take longer.

    Your blood test will be carried out by a member of staff who is specially trained to take blood. If you have a permanent fitted device (piccline or portha cath) in your arm or chest for blood/treatment, let the receptionist know so that they can make sure that your blood tests are carried out by a nurse. More information about our blood test service.

    ECGs

    An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a test that checks the activity of your heart. It is painless and non-invasive. If you need an ECG, you may be able to have it done in your regular clinic, by a member of your research team. Otherwise, you may need to go to the cardiac outpatients department, at either Guy’s Hospital or St Thomas’ Hospital. Check with your research team to see which hospital you need to attend as you will not receive a letter for this appointment.

    MRI scans

    MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans are used to see soft tissue inside the body that does not show up on X-rays. It is a painless procedure that usually lasts between 15 and 90 minutes, depending on the size of the area being scanned and the number of images taken.

    The scanner itself takes the form of a short cylinder that is open at both ends. You will lie on a motorised bed that moves through the scanner. The scanner will make very loud tapping noises at certain times during the procedure. To help you relax, you will be given headphones with a choice of music.

    The MRI scanner at Guy’s Hospital is on the 2nd floor of Tower Wing. More information about our MRI service.

    CT scans

    A computerised tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body. The images produced by a CT scan are more detailed than standard X-rays.

    During a CT scan, you will usually lie on your back on a flat bed. The CT scanner consists of an X-ray tube that rotates around your body. You will usually be moved continuously through this rotating beam. The scan is painless and will usually take between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on which part of your body is being scanned.

    The CT scanner at Guy’s Hospital is on the 3rd floor of Tower Wing. More information about having a CT scan.

    Biopsies

    A biopsy involves taking a sample of your tissue so it can be examined in a laboratory. You may be asked to sign a separate consent form for use of your tissue samples in a clinical trial.

  • How will I receive my trial medicine?

    Some trial drugs will be given to you directly by your research teams. You will need to collect other medicines at:

    Guy’s outpatient pharmacy (Sainsbury’s Pharmacy), which is next to Guy’s Hospital. The address is Great Maze Pond, London SE1 9RT.
    Monday to Friday: 8am-11pm
    Saturday: 9am-10pm
    Sunday: 9am-9pm
    020 7188 7611

    St Thomas' outpatient pharmacy. This is located on Ground floor, Lambeth Wing, St Thomas’ Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH.
    Monday to Saturday: 7am-10pm
    Sunday: 9am-7pm
    020 7188 7642

  • Can I be reimbursed for my expenses?

    Some trials may reimburse you for travel costs and other expenses. Your research nurse or clinical trial co-ordinator or practitioner will be able to tell you if this is the case for the trial that you are on.

    If your trial does allow you to claim your expenses, you will be reimbursed for any trial-related visits that you make after you have signed the consent form confirming that you are going to take part in the trial. The scheme only allows you to claim for expenses related to your trial hospital visits. You need to keep all the travel tickets and receipts for which you would like to claim.

    You can choose to receive your payment either by cheque or BACS payment (which is paid directly into your bank/building society account). Your claim will be processed within 21–28 days.

  • Will I get emotional and well-being support?

    We know that cancer affects the whole person – not just the body. If you are living with cancer, you or your loved ones may need extra support to help you through this difficult time.

    If you are taking part in a clinical trial, you will have regular contact with members of the trial team. In between appointments, they may call you to check how you are feeling, and you will have a chance to talk to them about other concerns. You may also have regular visits from a district nurse who will help with things like IV line care, wound dressings and taking medication.

    You also have access to Dimbleby Cancer Care – an organisation dedicated to providing support and information for people receiving cancer treatment, and their loved ones.

    There are Dimbleby Cancer Care Centres in both Guy’s Hospital and in St Thomas’ Hospital. Services include one-to-one support and counselling, support groups, financial and benefits advice, complementary therapies such as aromatherapy and reflexology, and information about what else is available to you.
    For more information: www.dimblebycancercare.org

    Spiritual care

    The department of spiritual care (chaplaincy) supports people of all faiths, as well as  people who do not have a particular religious belief, but who would like someone to talk to.

    For more information email: chaplains@gstt.nhs.uk.

  • What happens if I feel unwell?

    If you are on a trial, you will have regular contact with members of the trials team and will be given a point of contact to phone if you become unwell, develop symptoms or experience any problems.

    If you have any problems after receiving chemotherapy or anti-cancer treatment, you can also call the Guy’s and St Thomas’ acute oncology service on 020 7188 3754. This service enables you to be fast-tracked into specialist care.

    Out of hours (before 8.30am and after 6.30pm Monday–Friday and all day weekends) call the hospital switchboard on 020 7188 7188 and ask for the Oncology registrar on call.

    Do not hesitate to seek medical advice if you feel unwell or have any concerns relating to your health.

  • What happens if I am not happy?

    We work closely with patients to understand what you want from our service, and we strive to constantly improve. If we don’t get things right, we want to hear about it so we can learn from the experience. If there is anything you are unhappy with, the first step is to talk to someone in the clinical trials team and we will do our best to put it right.

    If you feel more comfortable talking to somebody outside our team, contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS). They provide support and assistance with hospital related queries to patients and their families, carers and friends as well as facilitating complaints and resolving issues. They provide an independent advocacy service. Find out more about PALS and about making a complaint.

  • Can I be a part of improving the service?

    In 2014, we brought together staff, patients and their family and friends, in a new group called the Collaborative Quality Improvement Group. The group members work together to improve the cancer clinical trials service.

    The group has already made a number of changes – for example:
    • improving the way patient expenses are reimbursed
    • developing a booklet for new cancer clinical trial patients
    • development of a website to communicate better with patients

    The group meets four times a year and is open to anyone taking part in a cancer clinical trial at Guy’s and St Thomas’, as well as their family and friends. If you are interested in joining, please contact askOHCT@gstt.nhs.uk.

Contact us

Email: 
askOHCT@gstt.nhs.uk

Twitter: 
@GSTTohct

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